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Migration Committee Chairperson supports call by EU Presidency to relocate rescued boat migrants

“I am grateful to Italy for having allowed the 180 migrants on board the vessel Ocean Viking, to be transferred to the Italian ship Moby Zaza for quarantine, medical support and registration of asylum applications,” Pierre-Alain Fridez (Switzerland, SOC), Chairperson of the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons, said.

He recalled that the Parliamentary Assembly has repeatedly underlined the obligation to rescue migrant boats in distress at sea, most recently in Resolution 2305 (2019) on saving lives in the Mediterranean and Resolution 2229 (2018) on the international obligations of Council of Europe member States to protect life at sea.

“Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, asylum seekers have the right to international protection under the 1951 UN Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol. In addition, international maritime law requires that migrant boats in distress at sea must be rescued and brought to the next safe port,” Mr Fridez said.

“24 358 boat people arrived in Europe across the Mediterranean Sea by 30 June this year, more than one third stranded on the Greek islands, with many others arriving in Spain, Italy, Malta and Cyprus. I strongly welcome yesterday’s appeal by the German EU Presidency to achieve an agreed modus operandi for relocating refugees arriving by boat within the EU, and I fully agree with the German Interior Minister that it is not acceptable to have recourse to telephone diplomacy in order to find a port or a country to accept these boats and people in distress. All Council of Europe member States and the EU must assist boat people as well as the arrival front-line countries – this is particularly important during this period of the COVID-19 pandemic,” he added.

Pierre-Alain Fridez concluded by saying that the Parliamentary Assembly’s Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons would continue to monitor the situation, and will shortly approve a report on the rights and obligations of NGOs assisting refugees and migrants in Europe.