Shipowners and their crews have the legal duty to help people in distress at sea. Part of this help may include the captain’s decision to take people on board. This raises the important point that the ship can set refugees back on land once a safe harbour is reached.
Various problems are applicable to the central area of the Mediterranean Sea. For example, the current unwillingness of Italy to accept refugees, and Libya’s geographical position, active coast guard and unsafe status mean that a ship that has rescued refugees can have difficulty disembarking these people. In addition, there is a risk that refugees are not satisfied with the port or country of disembarkment. This can lead to unsafe situations on board.
Through the European shipowners' association ECSA and the international shipowners' association ICS, the KVNR has repeatedly called for attention to address this issue. First and foremost, shipowners and their crews want to help people in emergency situations. However, it is vital that merchant navy vessels do not get into problems because European countries have not been able to make any decisions about how to tackle the migrant and refugee crisis.
The KVNR considers that it is the job of the combined European governments to find a lasting solution to the situation which takes into account the humanitarian factor and merchant shipping.
It is therefore critical that Frontex continues to operate effectively, especially now that EU NAVFOR no longer offers support. As many migrant and refugee boats as possible have to be located and rescued by trained and well-equipped units in time.