Posted by: ingjerdschou | April 24, 2012

Lives lost in the Mediterranean Sea: Who is responsible?

Innlegg holdt 24.4.2012 i Europarådet / Strasbourg

Thank you Mr. President,
Increased migration from North-Africa to Europe is one result of the Arab spring. Reading the detailed account of what happened to the people in the small boat was heart wrenching. There is no doubt that the incident described in the report was a tragedy. All human beings are of equal value, and we must do our utmost so that lives are not lost.
How we organize search and rescue work has to be looked at. Are there too many entities involved, and does this result in fragmentation of responsibility? Can communication between the entities be improved? How is the legal framework implementet? Bottom line is that people in distress at sea, whether they are recreational boaters, fishermen or refugees, must be helped. As political decision makers we must ensure that he framework is conducive to the task at hand.

President,
in paragraph 13 of the resolution, some of these issues are addressed. The suggestion to improve and clarify the guidelines of what amounts to a distress signal is important. We cannot accept that simple misunderstandings result in death at sea. And we cannot let different entities have their own interpretation of what a vessel in distress is. Several relevant questions are raised. Whose responsibility is a search and rescue zone where the state in question is failing? What do we do when states are hesitant to take responsibility because the inflow of migrants is overwhelming? How can we tackle the reluctance by commercial vessels to go to the rescue? These questions must be dealt with by the international community.
We have to draw lessons from this incident. The duty to help those in distress at sea is not disputed. An international legal framework is in place. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea states the duty to render assistance, and the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea and the International Convention on Search and Rescue strengthen it. What remains is to look at how we can live up to our duties.
Fortunately search and rescue operations saved many lives throughout 2011, but as this report illustrates, lives were also lost. Ensuring safety on the seas is a collective responsibility that we must not take lightly. We cannot accept more humanitarian tragedies of this kind.

Thank you.

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