A new report by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) presents the results of in-depth research in four EU Member States with southern EU sea borders.
It describes the hazardous journey and deaths at sea, discusses current maritime surveillance mechanisms and cooperation with third countries, and details the treatment of migrants when they arrive on shore. A final chapter is devoted to sea operations coordinated by the EU’s border control agency (Frontex), and to EU solidarity mechanisms.
European Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmström: “I very much welcome FRA’s report on fundamental rights issues at the EU’s southern sea borders. It identifies the difficulties migrants face during their journey and the serious and urgent challenges they come up against after their arrival. The right to life and respect for the principle of non-refoulement are core fundamental rights, and the European Union as well as Member States must do everything they can to ensure these rights are implemented to the full. FRA’s report provides concrete proposals on how this can be achieved.”
While many reports discussing this issue focus on a particular incident at just one border crossing, FRA has collected exhaustive data on the four countries to which the majority of migrant boats arrive (Spain, Italy, Greece and Malta). Sources included border guards, fishermen, and migrants themselves. The large scope of the research and broad range of interview partners enabled FRA to list promising as well as bad practices, and indicate where policymakers need to act in order to increase the fundamental rights protection of migrants when they arrive in the EU.
“The EU and its Member States must ensure that border surveillance and management, while necessary, are not detrimental to the fundamental rights of migrants arriving at our shores,” said FRA Director Morten Kjaerum. “There are many reasons for people to venture the journey to Europe. Some are making use of their fundamental right to seek refuge from persecution in their home countries; some are looking for a better life for themselves and their families; and some, particularly women and girls, are being trafficked against their will. But whatever the context of their arrival, we expect migrants entering the EU to be afforded the same rights and treated with the same dignity accorded to any other person.”
There have been considerable changes in the patterns of migration by sea over the last 10 years. Arrivals rose significantly in 2011 following the Arab Spring, before dropping again in 2012:
Figure 1: Data trends (2001–2012) for Greece, Spain, Italy and Malta
FRA’s new report makes a total of 50 suggestions, targeted at EU and national policymakers, on means of improving fundamental rights protection at the EU’s sea borders. These include:
>> The full report can be downloaded here: Fundamental rights at the EU's southern sea borders
Notes to editors:
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