The vote yesterday (Thursday 24th October, 2019) on a resolution on search and rescue operations (SAR) in the Mediterranean comes following a debate on the topic in the European Parliament on Wednesday evening and work by the Parliament’s LIBE (Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs) Committee over the last month.
Its rejection in no way changes current practices on SAR in the Mediterranean.
The resolution was tabled by the LIBE Committee on Monday this week.
As the EPP Group did not agree with all the contents of this resolution, an alternative resolution was tabled by the Group.
I support a strong EU response to search and rescue, and tackling smugglers and human traffickers operating in the Mediterranean. I also support long-term measures that address the reasons why people flee their home countries.
Any suggestion that my vote yesterday is against protecting and rescuing those who flee their home countries is a serious misrepresentation of my position. And, it is deeply regrettable that some would seek to gain political capital from the issue on the back of the appalling tragedy in recent days in Essex.
The Fine Gael delegation had particular concerns regarding the sharing of information related to persons in distress at sea with any vessels in the vicinity.
This would effectively have meant a ‘free for all’ and could involve sharing information with traffickers themselves.
We have a moral obligation to protect vulnerable migrants and not play into the hands of traffickers and smugglers.
The alternative EPP resolution called on Member States and Frontex (the European Border and Coast Guard Agency) to step up efforts in support of SAR in the Mediterranean.
FRONTEX provides support to the national authorities of the EU Member States in search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean.
Already this year the organisation has saved over 25,000 migrants at sea. Last year over 37,000 people were saved.
The EPP resolution called for all vessels to cooperate with the competent authorities in compliance with international and European Union law. This is vitally important to protect migrants.
The same resolution also calls for the Commission to bring forward proposals on sustainable and fair relocation mechanisms for persons arriving at sea as we believe that all EU Members States should share responsibility on migration.
And, it asks the Commission to work on a new, more sustainable approach to SAR replacing ad hoc solutions currently in place.
We also need to cooperate with countries of origin and countries of transit to tackle migrant smuggling networks, related criminal activity and human trafficking.
This work must and will continue.