Map showing status of search and rescue ships and aircraft in Mediterranean as of end-June 2023

June 2023 update - Search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean and fundamental rights

Since October 2018, FRA has been publishing regular updates on NGO ships involved in search and rescue (SAR) operations in the Mediterranean, and the status of legal proceedings against them. This latest update covers until the end of June 2023.

1   NGO ships and aircraft involved in SAR operations

After Italy ended its Mare Nostrum rescue programme in the Central Mediterranean in 2014, civil society organisations started deploying SAR vessels and reconnaissance aircraft which rescued a significant number of migrants and asylum seekers in distress at sea.

In August 2014, the organisation Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) deployed the vessel Phoenix. Since then, several civil society organisations have deployed a total of 40 rescue vessels and four reconnaissance aircraft, mainly in the Central Mediterranean. These assets seek to reduce fatalities and bring rescued people to safety in the EU. Since the last FRA update published in June 2022, three new rescue vessels were deployed: Life Support, Mare Go and Sea Punk.

At the end of June 2023, 18 vessels and three aircraft were still deployed, the rest had discontinued operations.  Six of the 18 vessels were under maintenance (Mare Jonio, Open Arms Uno, Astral, Rise Above, ResQPeople and Sea Punk).

Civil society actors deploying SAR vessels and aircraft faced numerous legal proceedings hampering their work.

By engaging in SAR operations at sea, civil society organisations play a key role in saving lives and mitigating the hardships that migrants and asylum seekers experience.