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Migration Committee Chair: sea rescue operations need all Europe’s support and solidarity

Doris Fiala (Switzerland, ALDE), Chairperson of the PACE Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons, has commended Spain for its offer to open the port of Valencia to the Aquarius, now drifting in the Mediterranean sea with 629 migrants on board rescued from Libya’s coast, including over 120 unaccompanied minors as well as other children and several pregnant women.

“Above all, European countries have an obligation to respect human rights and in this context must abide by the principle of rescue at sea. Political positions should not come before humanitarian considerations,” she said, “If we do not protect these people trying to escape war, we will one day have to live with the responsibility for their fate. At the same time, countries which are the first safe ports for sea arrivals need greater support and assistance from all our member States.”

Spain’s proposal came after first Italy, whose coastguard oversaw the rescue, then Malta, both refused to let the ship dock. In a partnership between SOS Mediterranée and Medecins Sans Frontières, the search and rescue ship Aquarius sails in the central Mediterranean saving migrants from life-threatening, overcrowded boats and rafts.

A new three-day sea journey will inevitably cause more danger and hardship, however, with added problems of low supplies and extreme weather conditions.