• February 12, 2015


The latest tragedy in the Mediterranean Sea where several hundred refugees have died fleeing war and poverty via the hazardous crossing from North Africa to Italy was predictable.

In November 2014 the EU said its members States would scale down search and rescue operations in an attempt to ‘deter’ migrants from attempting the dangerous sea crossing. However at the time there were many hundreds in North Africa waiting to find a ship and unable (logistically or financially) to return to their home countries.

The UN Special Rapporteur for Migrants immediately criticised the move and in an email to the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) on December 3rd the Celtic League reminded it that the member States involved had obligations as signatories to various conventions on the safety of life at sea. We also pointed out that several of the Mediterranean States involved were current members of the IMO Council and urged it to raise the matter with both National governments involved and the EU (see link):


The IMO responded fairly promptly on 5th of December 2014 agreeing that the States involved were members of the Search and Rescue Convention – implicit in that reply is that they must meet their obligations. Pointedly however the IMO would not comment on the damaging statement from the EU which was part of our original query (see link – please note typo the IMO letter should read 5th December 2014):

The IMO did follow this up with a joint statement, IMO, along with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on 11th December 2014 (see link):


However the statement was couched in general terms and did little to endorse the alert first highlighted in November by the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Migrants Rights, Francois Crepeau.

Ms Crepeau’s warming has turned out to be tragically prophetic and despite the many hundreds who died this week the EU whilst making sympathetic statements about those who (continue to) die has not retracted its policy of deterrence.

J B Moffatt (Mr)
Director of Information


(Please note that replies to correspondence received by the League and posted on CL News are usually scanned hard copies. Obviously every effort is made to ensure the scanning process is accurate but sometimes errors do occur).


The Celtic League has branches in the six Celtic Countries. It works to promote cooperation between these countries and campaigns on a broad range of political, cultural and environmental matters. It highlights human rights abuse, monitors all military activity and focuses on socio-economic issues

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