In April at least 130 people after a shipwreck off the coast of Libya. This tragedy, like many others before it, could and should have been avoided. I have therefore put the following three questions to the Commission in a question. These and other questions can be found in full on the homepage of the European Parliament.
1.how far were the Frontex and Operation Irini vessels from the location of the vessel and were they informed of the search and rescue operations?
2.Did any surveillance aircraft call the distressed vessel?
3. what action will the Commission take against Italy and Malta, which ignored distress calls and allowed over 130 people to die?
The Commission's response is that it is not the task of Operation Irini to rescue people in distress at sea. The EU does not currently have a sea rescue mission either, which is why the NGOs are on the ground, but the national authorities also have a duty to rescue. The Commission's assertion that the Italian and Maltese authorities did not have any operational resources at their disposal does not strike me as credible. The Maltese authorities have hardly been actively involved in rescuing people from their sea rescue zone for years.
Here is the Commission's full reply:
The main task of Operation IRINI is to ensure the implementation of the arms embargo against Libya. The sea-based assets of Operation IRINI are mostly deployed in the eastern part of their area of operation, where the violations of the arms embargo are most frequently committed. They were informed of the incident after the fact by the Italian Maritime Rescue Control Centre. At the time of the incident, the nearest sea-based Operation IRINI asset was more than 300 nautical miles away and the nearest air-based asset was 180 nautical miles away from the scene of the incident.
In accordance with the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) and the International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue, the airborne assets of Operation IRINI shall relay all information on distress situations at sea to all competent sea rescue coordination centres. The operational coordination of search and rescue operations shall be the responsibility of the Member States without operational involvement of the Commission.
The shipwreck in question occurred on 21/22 April 2021. The Libyan, Italian and Maltese rescue coordination centres were informed of a ship in distress by an aircraft from the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex), and the Libyan Coast Guard took over the coordination of the rescue operation and the search of the sighting area. Ocean Viking and three merchant vessels were diverted by the Italian Maritime Rescue Control Centre to provide assistance. A second Frontex aircraft was deployed to speed up the search.
The Italian and Maltese authorities had no means of intervention available in the vicinity of the incident. In the end, given the extremely unfavourable weather conditions, no ship was able to arrive in time.