Sunday, 5/4/2020 | 11:26 UTC+0
Libyan Newswire

Answer – NGOs are supporting people-smugglers in the Mediterranean – E-002278/2017

The Commission is aware that, since late 2014, a growing number of non-state naval assets have started actively pursuing Search and Rescue (SAR) in the Central Mediterranean and is informed, through open sources, that enquiries are being conducted by the Italian Senate and some Italian Prosecutor’s offices into some of them for suspected communication with possible smugglers.

While non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are important in assisting governments facing the current migratory and refugee crisis, SAR procedures should be aligned with the relevant International Maritime Organisation (IMO) Guidelines on the treatment of persons rescued at sea. The duty to render assistance to those in distress is an obligation of international law and extends to territorial waters. The shipmaster must then follow the competent Rescue Coordination Centre’s (RCC) instructions to a designated place of safety.

Currently, Libya does not have a RCC. Building the Libyan Coast Guard’s capacity to coordinate SAR operations is a priority for the Commission and Member States for which the EU is providing training and equipment in support including via Operation Eunavfor Sophia.

The Commission does not finance NGOs engaged in SAR activities in the Mediterranean. In particular, funding under the Internal Security Fund (ISF) can be provided only in support of those SAR operations for persons in distress at sea, which arise during maritime border surveillance operations. Such border surveillance operations are in the exclusive responsibility of public authorities. Hence, SAR operations carried out by third parties such as NGOs are not eligible under ISF.