The document from the six states which oppose the Search and Rescue and Disembarkation provisions of the proposed Frontex Sea Borders Regulation is available via Statewatch. (h/t to Neil Falzon and Aditus for pointing this out). The document, a Note to the Working Party on Frontiers/Mixed Committee, criticises the proposed Regulation stating that the six states, Greece, Spain, France, Italy, Cyprus and Malta, “consider it essential to ensure that the international framework on search and rescue and disembarkation is not in any way undermined; that no confusion or diverging rules are adopted when considering the sensitive nature of these operations.”
It is difficult to see how the disembarkation provisions in the proposed Regulation “confuse” or “diverge” from the international framework. The document implies that the six states are in agreement as to what the international framework requires in regard to disembarkation when in practice this is not the case. It was only two months ago that Italy and Malta engaged in their most recent public disagreement on disembarkation. Recall the several day stand-off regarding the 102 migrants rescued by the oil tanker Salamis. The Salamis was given conflicting orders to sail to Libya, Malta, and Italy before Italy finally allowed the migrants to be disembarked. The diverging opinions of Italy and Malta were again raised this week when Malta’s opposition leader criticised the Malta government for deciding to bring 150 migrants rescued from the sea two weeks ago after their boat capsized. The opposition’s point was that rescued migrants should have been taken to the port closest to the point of rescue, i.e. Lampedusa not Malta. While the disembarkation provisions in the proposed Regulation are not perfect, it is disingenuous to argue that they diverge from the international framework and that further clarification is not necessary.
The document calls for disembarkations in Frontex operations to be conducted “in accordance with international law and relevant bilateral agreements which comply with international law.” The proposed language regarding bilateral agreements seems designed to address (and protect) on-going Spanish and Frontex interdiction activities in West Africa which now occur largely within the territorial waters of West African states with intercepted or rescued migrants being disembarked in West Africa.
The six states propose new and simplified language for the Search and Rescue and Disembarkation provisions in Arts. 9 and 10 of the proposed Regulation:
During a sea operation, Member States shall instruct their participating units
shall to comply with the obligation to render assistance to any ship or person in distress at sea, in accordance with applicable provisions of international Conventions governing search and rescue and fundamental rights. They shall do so regardless of the nationality or status of such a person or the circumstances in which that person is found.
For the purposes of sea operations coordinated by the Agency,
Tthe modalities for the disembarkation of the persons intercepted or rescued in a sea operation shall be set out in the operational plan, and shall be in accordance with international law and relevant bilateral agreements which comply with international law.”
Click here for the Note to the Working Party on Frontiers/Mixed Committee
Click here for the proposed Frontex Sea Borders Regulation.