• #Asylum

How could the EU support Search and Rescue operations and disembarkations?

Birte Nienaber
Associate Professor - University of Luxembourg
Oesch Lucas
Postdoc - University of Luxembourg
Marta Lovison
Project manager, Researcher - Fondazione ISMU

Over the past year, refusals by some EU Member States to disembark migrants rescued at sea have sparked mainly ad hoc responses on a “ship-by-ship” basis by a number of Member States in a purely ‘intergovernmental’ fashion, falling outside the EU legal framework and asylum acquis. As our expert brief mapping the existing research in this field shows, it is necessary to individuate cooperating actors who handle SAR operations and to design the criteria to allocate responsibility between them. In our expert interview,  Dr. Eugenio Cusumano and Prof. Alessia Di Pascale highlight that:

- There is a need for a structural project for the establishment of regional disembarkation platforms;

- It is necessary to design an allocation mechanism to realize a fairer distribution of responsibilities in examining asylum applications, together with a system of sanctions for those Member States that fail to comply with their obligations within this responsibility allocation system.


Key issues and controversies further highlighted in upcoming ReSOMA discussion brief and the ECRE paper include:

- the EU Member States’ lack of compliance with their commitments under international maritime, refugee and human rights law,

- the increase in policing and criminalization of NGOs conducting SAR activities in the Mediterranean,

- political exploitation of stand-offs in the Mediterranean,

- the risk of ad hoc arrangements operating outside the EU legal framework denying asylum seekers access to key procedural guarantees,

- the personal scope of such arrangements (all persons applying for international protection vs. persons in need of international protection),

- the risks of making disembarkation conditional on relocation commitments for the sustainability of the SAR regime,

- necessity to establish an EU SAR fund for coordinated EU SAR response and to strengthen EU Member States disembarkation capacities, reception facilities and domestic asylum systems.


This online consultation aims to discuss with national stakeholders, practitioners, policy actors and researchers the following three topics:


Topic 1: Critical actions for implementation.

- What are the critical actions to be taken to ensure rapid and effective implementation of SAR operations and disembarkation?

- How can local and national actors be actively involved and pressured in the implementation process to ensure their responsibility for SAR activities?


Topic 2: Policy actions to ensure that critical factors are addressed.

- What are the measures that have been implemented in the area of SAR and disembarkation in your national/local context?

- What is their impact on fundamental rights of individuals?

- What are other possible measures to improve the current situation? Please also fill in our quick survey.


Topic 3: The role of the EU and other actors

- What role could the EU play in fostering coordination among EU member states and empowering local and national stakeholders in this process?

- Who are the other key institutions and actors that are or should be involved in SAR and disembarkation in your national/local context? How can they help overcome the identified challanges?


We invite you all to share your views, experiences and examples on SAR operations and disembarkation in your country of work/residence.


To join the discussion, please first log in to the platform in the top right corner. 


When you leave a message, please note in the subject line the topic you are responding to in order to ensure a more interactive dialogue between commentators. Ex: “Topic 3: school boards play more important role than…”

Please scroll down to read and reply to previous comments!

Artemis Papavasileiou
05.07.2019 18:28

Topic 3: The role of the EU

If we accept that the EU can coordinate SAR operations in its external frontiers, it could also foresee a system where rescued persons that declare their intention to apply for asylum would be redistributed evenly in Dublin member states that would then be responsible for the examination of their asylum claim. Notwithstanding the fact that this is not something currently foreseen in CEAS and certain member states would be reluctant to adopt such a policy, it could find support from the Dublin member states at the EU external borders, given the reluctance they have displayed in accepting rescued persons in their territories and the need to adopt collective solutions. It could also help ensure that both individual Member States and the EU as a whole respect the duty to rescue persons in distress and the principle of non-refoulement.

Spyros Rizakos
28.06.2019 09:18

Search and Rescue Operations and Disembarkation

Ad hoc temporary arrangements operating outside the EU legal framework are a very dangerous development which will jeopardize refugee protection and respect for human rights. Civil society should oppose these arrangements and ask for durable solutions based on fair responsibility sharing.

Zeynep Kasli
Erasmus University Rotterdam
09.07.2019 12:11

In deed more durable solutions are needed. In that regard, would you agree with the solution (EU-coordinated SAR operations) supported by Artemis Papavasileiou from ASYLEX ?