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Frontex: saving lives cannot be questioned


16 Apr 2014


Justice & Home Affairs

“The agreement reached today which lays down rules for the surveillance of external sea borders is a success story. We are happy with this outcome because saving human lives is something that cannot be questioned, especially by any vessel that has the ability to do so. These new rules will contribute to a more effective surveillance of our external borders and will fight against all forms of cross-border criminality”, said Rapporteur Carlos Coelho MEP.

The newly-adopted Regulation should help Member States fulfil their obligation to provide assistance to persons and boats in distress, with clearly defined emergency phases, and it has established a clear obligation for the participating units to engage and save lives, as well as a set of concrete rules to deal with situations of search and rescue (SAR) and disembarkation.

It also abolishes the possibility of ‘pushback’ on high seas, only allowing the possibility of ‘warning and ordering’ a vessel not to enter a Member State’s territorial waters. In the case that the vessel does enter the territorial waters or the contiguous zone, the Member State has the right to escort the vessel out of its waters.

Finally, it reinforces the Principle of Non-Refoulement which says that individuals must not be returned to their country of origin or any other country where there is a serious risk that the person would be subject to the death penalty, torture, persecution or other inhumane or degrading treatment.

“This agreement safeguards that those who are intercepted or rescued, in particular those in need of international protection, victims of trafficking, unaccompanied minors and other vulnerable persons, are identified and receive appropriate help. I believe that the EU was able for the challenge, and within our legislative powers we stood up for what we believe in: a Europe of values”, concluded Coelho.

This first reading agreement was adopted in plenary with 528 votes for, 46 against and 88 abstentions.

Note to Editors
The EPP Group is by far the largest political group in the European Parliament with 274 Members from 27 Member States.

The European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the Member States of the European Union (Frontex) was set up to respond to the need to improve the integrated management of the external borders of the European Union.

Although responsibility for the control and surveillance of external borders lies with Member States, Frontex facilitates the application of existing and future EU measures relating to the management of these borders.

The main role of Frontex is to protect EU external borders with North Africa and Turkey from illegal immigration and people trafficking as well as infiltration into Europe by possible terrorist elements from North Africa and the Middle East.

Irregular migrants coming from Northern Africa towards Italy and Malta across the Mediterranean use mostly wooden fishing boats which are often overcrowded and thus prone to sinking or capsizing in high-sea conditions and are often ill-equipped with poor engines and nav

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