EU Member-States Legally, Morally Obliged To Save Refugees Off European Coast - Commission

EU Member-States Legally, Morally Obliged to Save Refugees Off European Coast - Commission

MOSCOW (UrduPoint News / Sputnik - 04th November, 2022) Member-states of the European Union have "moral duty" and "legal obligation" to rescue refugees in distress in the Mediterranean Sea while trying to reach EU shores, EU Commission Spokesperson for Home Affairs, Migration and Internal Security, Anitta Hipper, said on Thursday.

Earlier in the day, European maritime and humanitarian organization SOS Mediterranee reported that Italy and Malta were refusing docking to the Ocean Viking ship carrying 234 refugees rescued in the Mediterranean. Rescuers appealed to Greece, Spain and France with a request to assist in resolving the situation, the organization said, adding that many refugees have been at sea for about two weeks.

"The Commission is not involved nor is responsible for the coordination of such operation at sea, nor in defining a place of disembarkation. Nevertheless, we recall that saving lives at sea is a moral duty, as well as legal obligation for member-states under international law independently from circumstances which had led people to the distress at sea," Hipper said during a briefing.

She said the European Commission was aware of hundreds of refugees aboard three ships in the Mediterranean that had never received permission to dock in any EU country.

"As you know, the Mediterranean route continues to be one of the most active routes, where lives are put in danger every day by criminal networks. We are following the situation very closely and we have seen that according to our available information there are three ships with around 1,000 persons on board," the spokeswoman said.

The three ships in free float are Ocean Viking with 234 people on board, Geo Barents with 572 people and Humanity 1 with 179 people.

On October 25, the International Organization for Migration said that at least 2,836 deaths and disappearances have been documented on the central Mediterranean route of since 2021. Many deaths on migration routes to EU destination countries could be prevented by providing prompt and effective assistance to migrants, the organization noted.