Statement by Human Rights Commissioner Luise Amtsberg on maritime rescue efforts in the Mediterranean

29.07.2022 - Press release

Libya has declared a Search and Rescue (SAR) zone in which it is legally obliged to save people from drowning. However, the actions of the Libyan coastguard have shown time and again that Libya is not conforming with human rights standards in the fulfilment of this mandate. International law and human rights are being repeatedly violated at sea and on land. The Libyan coastguard is therefore not a reliable partner for the European Union.

It must be clear to all of us what happens when people are returned to Libya after being rescued. They are regularly exposed to torture, enslavement and sexual violence in the detention centres there. The German Government is thus campaigning for the abolition of this system of contempt for human life – a system that is directly connected with the activities of the Libyan coastguard.

From a human rights perspective, cooperation with the Libyan coastguard is therefore untenable. This is one reason why the German Government has already modified Germany’s involvement in Operation IRINI to remove support for the Libyan coastguard from the mandate. An important step in the right direction, and one that the European Union should take, too.

Furthermore, it is essential for the German Government to fulfil the promises made in its coalition agreement by campaigning for a state-coordinated, European maritime rescue programme. Until this goal is reached, we must support civil-society maritime rescue efforts and oppose the criminalisation of maritime rescue NGOs and of refugees.

At the same time, responsibility for new arrivals must be shared within the EU in order to ease the extreme pressure on the member states in the Mediterranean. This is one reason why we committed in our coalition agreement to refining the Malta mechanism. A Europe of shared values requires joint action in order to defend these values – including and in particular on our external borders.

Intensive efforts must continue in talks with Libya as well as in the Berlin Process to resolve the conflicts in the country, with the unequivocal goal of putting an end to the prevailing conditions in the camps.

The new German Government remains committed to values-led foreign and refugee policy that conforms with human rights standards.


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