• February 23, 2015


The Celtic League has once again raised the issue of EU States responsibilities under the Search and Rescue (SAR) Convention with the IMO.

The League first highlighted concerns at the possible fatal consequences of an EU decision to ‘deter’ migrants by scaling down search and rescue in December last year.

Sadly, our concerns were proved dramatically prophetic when in recent weeks hundreds of migrants drowned because of inadequate search and rescue capability and despite the heroic efforts of hard pressed coastguard staff in the southern Mediterranean Sea area.

The League is urging the IMO in conjunction with other international agencies to press the EU for a greater SAR effort.

Text of letter to IMO Secretary General below:

“The Secretary-General
Mr. Koji Sekimizu
International Maritime Organisation
4 Albert Embankment


Dear Sir,

Recalling our correspondence with your Office on 3rd December 2014 it was with great alarm and concern that we learned of the very substantial loss of life amongst trans-Mediterranean migrant traffic over recent weeks caused (in part) by a lack of search and rescue capacity

You will recall that we expressed concern to you about a decision taken in November 2014 by the EU which in effect advised its members States in the Mediterranean Sea to scale down search and rescue operations. The raison d’être for this being an attempt to ‘deter’ migrants from attempting the dangerous sea crossing from North Africa to Europe. What the decision failed to take into account was that at that time there were many hundreds of migrants in North Africa waiting to find a ship and unable (logistically or financially) to return to their home countries.

Indeed our correspondence to you was prompted by a statement from the UN Special Rapporteur for Migrants who criticised the EU move.

In the response from the IMO (which was prompt) you pointed out the States highlighted in our communication were parties to the Search and Rescue Convention – implicit in that reply we felt was that they must meet their obligations under that Convention. Unfortunately the IMO choose not to comment on the damaging statement from the EU which was part of our original query

We were however heartened when the IMO did follow this up with a joint statement, in conjunction 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):


Unfortunately I fear the statement was couched in such general terms that it did little to endorse the alert first highlighted in November by the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Migrants Rights, Francois Crepeau.

Sadly Ms Crepeau’s original warning and are reiteration of same has turned out to be tragically prophetic given the many hundreds of migrants who have perished at sea over recent weeks.

We understand that the EU has not as yet retracted its ‘deterrence’ strategy towards migration and in effect SAR capacity still falls short of that necessary to address the migrant crisis.

Can I ask if the IMO has opened a dialogue with member states and the EU in an attempt to ensure they meet in full their obligations under the Search and Rescue Convention?

Yours sincerely,

J B Moffatt (Mr)

Director of Information
Celtic League”

Related links at the celtic league web archive:


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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