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Member states must assume more responsibility for rescuing migrants at sea and protecting their rights

Commissioner for Human Rights Strasbourg 18 June 2019
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Guinean migrant child covered with thermal blankets following a rescue operation at sea by a Spanish NGO ©Giorgos Moutafis

Guinean migrant child covered with thermal blankets following a rescue operation at sea by a Spanish NGO ©Giorgos Moutafis

“European states’ approach to migration in the Mediterranean Sea has become much too focused on preventing refugees and migrants from reaching European shores, and too little on the humanitarian and human rights aspects. This approach is having tragic consequences”, said Dunja Mijatović, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, while releasing a Recommendation today which identifies the deficiencies of this approach, and aims at helping member states to reframe their response according to human rights standards.

“A number of states have adopted laws, policies and practices contrary to their legal obligations to ensure effective search and rescue operations, swift and safe disembarkation and treatment of rescued people, as well as the prevention of torture, inhumane or degrading treatment”, says the Commissioner.

“Whilst states have the right to control their borders and ensure security, they also have the duty to effectively protect the rights enshrined in maritime, human rights and refugee laws”, says the Commissioner.

The 35 recommendations contained in the paper aim to help all Council of Europe member states find the right balance between these imperatives. They articulate around five main subject areas: ensuring effective search and rescue coordination; guaranteeing the safe and timely disembarkation of rescued people; co-operating effectively with NGOs; preventing human rights violations while co-operating with third countries; and providing accessible safe and legal routes to Europe.


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