London: Immediate collective action is needed to address the growing humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean Sea, a consortium of shipowners and seafarer organisations has told the EU.
In a joint letter to leaders of all 28 EU member states, the European Community Shipowners’ Associations (ECSA), the European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF), the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) have warned more lives will be lost at sea unless EU states respond quickly.
Immediate priority should be given to increasing resources for search and rescue operations by national navies and coastguards in the Mediterranean, the maritime organisations write in the letter.
“The shipping industry fully accepts its legal responsibility to rescue anyone in distress at sea, but argues it is unacceptable that the international community is increasingly relying on merchant ships and their crews to undertake more and more large-scale rescues,” the maritime organisations said in a statement today.
Passing merchant ships rescued around 40,000 stranded migrants last year, often rescuing up to 500 people at a time, which is a danger to the health and safety of seafarers.
The number of those rescued from the sea is expected to rise, and the four unions believe there should be a commensurate increase in state-funded resources for search and rescue operations to address this problem. “In practice this means that all EU member states need to share the financial burden in order to help prevent thousands more deaths,” the unions said.
The EU should also work to help provide alternative means of finding safety for refugees and migrants that does not involve crossing the Mediterranean.
In March, the ICS appealed to EU member states to support Italy’s search and rescue (S&R) operation in the Mediterranean, as well as that of Greece, Malta, Cyprus and Turkey.