Support for civil search and rescue activities

Options for the German government
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Ten years after the 2013 Lampedusa shipwreck killed an estimated 360 migrants, state-led search and rescue operations are persistently absent in the Mediterranean — despite the continuously high number of distress cases of persons attempting to cross in unseaworthy boats. In response, over the past 10 years, various non-profit actors have set up civil search and rescue operations. However, their operability and effectiveness fluctuate to a considerable degree depending on state actions. This is because European governments have been restricting and hampering civil search and rescue activities in various ways over the past years. In light of this, the present study examines the options for the German government to support civil search and rescue operations at the national and European level.

Product details
Date of Publication
July 2023
Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung European Union
Number of Pages
Language of publication
Table of contents

Authors 2
Abbreviations 4
Executive summary 7
Foreword 9
Introduction 11
I. How EU governments are obstructing civil search and rescue missions in the Mediterranean 13

  1. Obstruction through entry restrictions 13
  2. Obstruction by delay: stand-offs 14
  3. Obstruction under the guise of ship safety: port state controls 14
  4. Obstruction through restrictive codes of conduct 19
  5. Obstruction through registration requirements 21
  6. Obstruction through criminalisation 22
  7. Obstruction through excessive flag state registration requirements 24
II. How Germany can support civil search and rescue 28
  1. Establishing continuous funding of civil search and rescue activities 28
  2. Being a reliable and supportive flag state 28
  3. Increasing coordination and cooperation in relation to civil search and rescue 29
  4. Participating effectively in solidarity and relocation systems 31
  5. Preventing criminalisation of civil search and rescue activities 33
  6. Ending the endorsement of Libyan “rescue” activities 35
III. Conclusion 38
References 40