News Item

Six steps to prevent future tragedies at sea

© European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex), 2023
Following the recent tragic loss of life off the Greek coast, a short report of the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) suggests what the EU should do to prevent more deaths at sea. FRA calls on the European Commission, EU Member States and EU Agencies to act now to prevent future tragedies and save lives.

FRA’s new report on preventing and responding to deaths at sea identifies six key areas for action to tackle the mounting death toll at sea:

  1. Prompt, effective and independent investigations – EU Member States should ensure prompt and independent investigation of all shipwrecks. They should seek the expertise of specialised human rights bodies in these investigations. The EU should find ways to apply the transparency and accountability principles laid out in EU rules when investigating migrant shipwrecks.
  2. Improved search and rescue at sea – the European Commission and Member States should agree to exchange search and rescue protocols and develop best practices.This will allow Member States to adjust their search and rescue protocols. The Commission should also consider linking EU funding for maritime border management to the use of protocols which ensure timely assistance to people in danger at sea.
  3. Clear disembarkation rules and more solidarity – the EU should include a special mechanism for people who were rescued at sea in the proposed Asylum and Migration Management rules. Member States should also continue to apply the voluntary relocation mechanism and ensure that it is open to all asylum applicants, regardless of their nationality.
  4. Better protection for survivors – EU law should include shipwreck survivors who request international protection as an explicit category of asylum applicants with special needs. The EU Asylum Agency, in cooperation with Frontex, should develop EU-wide guidance for shipwreck survivors to respond to their specific needs in asylum and return procedures.
  5. Independent border monitoring – Member States should establish independent border monitoring mechanisms building on FRA’s general guidance.
  6. More accessible legal pathways to the EU – Member States should provide accessible legal pathways to people who need international protection, for example by increasing resettlement places and promoting other humanitarian admission programmes. To cover labour shortages in the EU, the European Commission and Member States should also open talent partnerships to migrants and refugees.

Quote of FRA Director Michael O’Flaherty:

“The drownings of so many migrants – on average 8 every day last year – is a cause of deep shame for Europe. We cannot keep simply watching as innocent people die at sea. As a matter of law and decency, EU Member States must improve search and rescue and provide legal pathways to safety to prevent deaths at sea.”