I take note of the decision taken by the EU's Political and Security Committee with regards to Operation Sophia. I regret that this will lead to even fewer naval assets in the Mediterranean, which could assist the rescue of persons in distress at sea. Lives are continuing to be lost in the Mediterranean. This should remind states of the urgency to adopt a different approach, one that should ensure a sufficiently resourced and fully operational system for saving human lives at sea and to safeguard rescued migrants’ dignity.
Whilst coastal states have the responsibility to ensure effective coordination of search and rescue operations, protecting lives in the Mediterranean requires concerted efforts of other states as well, to begin with the provision of naval assets specifically dedicated to search and rescue activities, deployed in those areas where they can make an effective contribution to saving human lives. Furthermore, I reiterate my call to all states to refrain from hindering and criminalising the work of NGOs who are trying to fill the ever-increasing gap in rescue capacity. States should rather support and co-operate with them, including by ensuring that they can use ports for their life-saving activities.
Finally, the decision to continue only with aerial surveillance and training of the Libyan Coast Guard further increases the risks that EU member states, directly or indirectly, contribute to the return of migrants and asylum seekers to Libya, where it is well-documented, in particular recently by the United Nations, that they face serious human rights violations. So far, calls to ensure more transparency and accountability in this area, including by publishing human rights risk assessments and setting up independent monitoring mechanisms, have not been heeded. The onus is now on EU member states to show urgently that the support to the Libyan Coast Guard is not contributing to human rights violations, and to suspend this support if they cannot do so.