Open letter about the tragedies occuring at the sea

Dear Sir,
Thank you for your letter of May 30th 2008 to Migreurop, concerning the tragedies occurring at sea in the context of the arrival of migrants on European coasts.

lettre S. Busuttil à Migreurop

As regards Migreurop’s position on the Frontex agency’s role and the so-called “rescue” operations, I suggest you consult the speech by Migreurop Board member Pierre-Arnaud Perrouty, given to the European parliament’s Commission of Civil liberties, Justice and Internal affairs on July 3rd 2007, on “Migrants’ tragedies at sea” (see the attached text). You will find that for Migreurop, the strengthening of Frontex’s means, far from helping to save lives as your letter maintains, will rather serve to heighten the risks run by migrants whose vessels are intercepted.

audition Perrouty comm LIBE du PE

Furthermore, the conclusions given in Pierre-Arnaud Perrouty’s speech have been confirmed and reinforced since the maritime interception operations, under Operation Nautilus III, have also begun taking place in Libyan waters. Numerous reports denounce the treatment of migrants in transit in Libya, referring to arbitrary detention, acts of violence and the lack of respect for the right of asylum. Under application of Operation Nautilus III procedure, any person intercepted in Libyan territorial waters, including potential asylum seekers, risks being sent to the lawless territory that is Libya for migrants.

As for the rest, we hold that the appropriate conduct for maritime
interception operations must be guided by two principles:

  Priority is given to the saving of human lives over considerations relating to the management of migratory flows, as, moreover, the international conventions on maritime law SAR and SOLAS provide. This principle must determine the choice of host country for those saved.

  Account is taken, as much as possible, of the free choice of migrants saved in international waters of the country they wish to go to, in fitting with the right to respect for their private and family life which entails consideration of their family attachments, language or other personal interests.

In this respect we bring to your attention the fact that the authoritarian imposition of a host country can prove to be a source of discriminations and paradoxical situations: such is currently the case with the mechanism inferred by the regulation (CE) n° 343/2003 of the Council of February 18th 2003, “Dublin II”, which obliges the country by which an asylum seeker first penetrates European Union territory to treat his or her request. This mechanism, which weighs disproportionately on the countries that form the external border of the EU, often proves to be unjust and inhumane for those concerned. The “Dublin system” has been strongly criticised by international organisations such as the ECRE (European Council for exiles and refugees) who believes is to “cause, in numerous cases, additional suffering for those families, children and torture victims seeking protection and sometimes exposes them to the danger of being sent back”, or Amnesty International as well as the UNHCR.

Numerous organisations believe that, in the case of asylum seekers, the request should be examined in the country of choice of the applicant, while a mechanism of solidarity should be created to aid member States according to the number of asylum seekers hosted. Migreurop considers that the question of the saving of migrants during maritime interceptions on the external borders of the EU should be oriented towards a solution of this kind.


For Migreurop,
Claire Rodier