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Parliament backs EU Search and Rescue Mission


13 Jul 2023


Med & South

Today, the European Parliament has finally taken a strong stance in support of an EU Search and Rescue Mission, after years of the S&D Group pushing for a sustainable, reliable and permanent approach to search and rescue operations.

Parliament’s support of more EU action comes after the recent capsizing and sinking of a fishing boat near the coast of Greece that had around 750 people on board. The loss of several hundred lives at sea is not an isolated incident so the Socialists and Democrats insisted a debate and report be added to this week’s plenary agenda. According to International Organisation for Migration figures, there are 27,633 people recorded missing, presumed dead, in the Mediterranean since 2014. This year alone, 1,875 people have died or have gone missing trying to reach Europe by crossing the Mediterranean.

The report calls on member states to step up their proactive search and rescue operations in cooperation with Frontex and to ensure there are enough vessels and equipment for saving lives. The EU Search and Rescue Mission would be implemented by both the responsible national authorities in member states and the EU border.

Birgit Sippel, S&D spokesperson on home affairs, said:

“Search and rescue is not an arbitrary political decision – quite the contrary: it is our moral and legal duty to save people from drowning. It is unacceptable for member states to repeatedly look the other way, as with the recent disaster off the Greek coast, to refuse help and to even criminalise civil society for its assistance. On an initiative from the Socialists and Democrats, we are therefore voting today as the European Parliament unequivocally in favour of our commitment to search and rescue. Central to this is our demand for a European coordinated search and rescue mission, which should combine member states’ capacities with the support of Frontex. In addition, NGOs must be allowed to carry out civilian search and rescue missions without fear of criminalisation. With the resolution being adopted today, we send a clear signal that member states and the Commission must fully assume their legal and humanitarian responsibilities.”

Domènec Ruiz Devesa, S&D negotiator on the search and rescue resolution, said:

“Sadly, the recent shipwreck incident in Greece was the latest in a long line of predictable tragedies. With this debate and with this resolution, we need to make sure that what happened in Pylos never happens again in the Mediterranean. It’s clear that search and rescue is now an urgent issue of European responsibility. The best way to support member states and to save lives is to launch a new EU Search and Rescue Mission, and this is the priority in this report. There is a humanitarian obligation to save lives at sea and this is not an issue that should split the European Parliament down political lines. This is a historic vote that means we can send a strong and united message to the Council that the high death toll in the Mediterranean is unacceptable and the lack of action is not sustainable.”