By mapping the fundamental rights challenges at Europe’s southern sea borders and identifying promising practices, this report is intended to offer advice to EU policy makers and practitioners at both the EU and Member State level. With its findings, the report highlights the following concrete measures, among others, that the EU and its Member States can take to address specific shortcomings identified by this research.
Right to life
The right to life is one of the most fundamental of human rights. It is enshrined in Article 2 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and in Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). In the maritime context, it has been codified by the duty to render assistance to persons in distress at sea and by search and rescue obligations.
For more information see Chapter 2, pp. 29-38.
Interception and non-refoulement
Many fundamental rights challenges emerge in the context of border surveillance at sea. Border management authorities have practical obligations to safeguard core fundamental rights, such as the right to life, the principle of non-refoulement as well as the need to treat persons rescued or intercepted at sea in a dignified manner.
For more information see Chapter 3, pp. 39-53.
In the field of border management, EU Member States and Schengen-associated countries are establishing Eurosur as a platform for exchanging border management information between themselves and with Frontex. Given the close link between rescue at sea and maritime surveillance, the planned Eurosur system’s life-saving potential should be put to best use, as it is likely to provide information on vessels or persons threatened by grave and imminent danger requiring immediate assistance.
For more information see Chapter 4, pp. 55-64.
Immediate humanitarian response upon arrival
Migrants arriving by sea are usually in need of emergency humanitarian assistance, specifically food, water, warm clothing, medical care and a place to rest. Greece, Italy, Malta and Spain have established different systems to cater for the needs of migrants when they are disem- barked at the pier. Some are more comprehensive and involve specialised humanitarian non-governmental organisations (NGOs), whereas others do not.
For more information see Chapter 6, pp. 71-86.
Fair screening and identification procedures
To respect the principle of non-refoulement and to ensure that adequate protection and care is given to those persons who are entitled to it, mechanisms must be in place at the border which make it possible to identify and channel individuals to appropriate procedures.
For more information see Chapter 7, pp. 87-96.
Fundamental rights in the context of return and readmission
From a fundamental rights point of view, readmission agreements bring both opportunities and risks. On the one hand, an agreement can facilitate the return of third-country nationals to their home country, thus reducing the risk of protracted immigration detention and protracted irregular stay. Readmission agreements with transit countries can also be used to facilitate voluntary departures for migrants in an irregular situation who wish to return home, but who may not have the necessary papers to transit through a third country. In this way, the agreements would reduce the need for forced removals. On the other hand, the agreements raise a number of challenges, particularly when third-country nationals are returned to a transit country other than their home country.
For more information see Chapter 8, pp. 97-103.
Fundamental rights training for border guards
To approximate national training of border guards, Frontex has developed a Common Core Curriculum. This curriculum which was adopted first in 2003 and revised most recently in 2012 includes a set of fundamental rights knowledge and skills that every border guard should have. Pursuant to Article 5 of the revised Frontex Regulation (EU) No. 1168/2011, EU Member States have a duty to integrate the curriculum in their national training for border guards.
For more information see Chapter 9, pp. 105-110.
EU solidarity and Frontex: fundamental rights challenges
The EU has established some solidarity measures to support EU Member States most affected by arrivals. These include EU funding, which is currently being revisited with the proposal to create two new funds: the Asylum and Migration Fund and the Internal Security Fund (in particular its instrument on borders and visas). Another solidarity tool is Frontex operational support. Considerable resources are devoted to Frontex-coordinated operations at sea.
For more information see Chapter 10, pp. 111-124.