Capability Gap


Insufficient means for Search and Rescue operations


Considering the migration flows in M&BS regions there is no adequate number of rescue means. This is linked not only to the lack of adequate equipment but also to deficient coordination between volunteer organisations and government institutions, a situation that is experienced along all Mediterranean routes (Western, Central and Eastern). 

Operational challenges that stem from these conditions are mainly the following: 

  • Time delay between alerts and activation of rescue services. This has happened even with data on the exact position of the wreck. Problems arise from lack of detection equipment, reduction of rescue controllers and personnel on boats / aircrafts  
  • Dismissal of charges of long-standing seafarers for “lack of confidence”. Likewise, the search for profiles of people to be hired is related to the new rescue structure as an element of immigration control 
  • Deployment of greater means if the alert corresponds to a European citizen, – which presents discrimination and fundamental rights issues 
  • Reduction of nightly searches for migrants in third countries, cooperation gaps between involved agencies from EU MS and third countries 
  • Lack of aerial means to search for boats. 

These operational challenges are of high importance as they create gaps in complete border security and monitoring of incoming refugees. In addition, they also have an impact on the security and safety of the refugees themselves, as well as their chances for safe relocation.  

October 2020 Workshop Findings

After considering two interconnected gaps vis-à-vis SaR, namely the fact that we have at our disposal insufficient means, while at the same time there is a perceived lack of coordination for effective SaR operations, the webinar findings were the following: SaR operations are mostly assumed by the Coast Guard, while police and various law enforcement authorities assist the Coast Guard in their efforts. Frontex supports SAR operations with surveillance capabilities while those operations are coordinated by the national Maritime Rescue Coordination Centres (MRCC). Since private entities (such as NGOs) intervene in SaR operations with vessels, the European Commission has formed recommendations for the cooperation between them and Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs). Implementing these recommendations is crucial for the safety of everyone involved. Following a webinar participant’s question on whether the existence of vessels for SaR offers an additional incentive for migrants to cross over to Europe, knowing that they will be rescued should anything happen, the general consensus was that although this would seem to be the case, it is not an important factor by itself. Since this is a complex issue, we must take into consideration the fact that organized crime networks, that partake in migrant smuggling, would try their best to avoid routes where they would come across SaR vessels. So, although the existence of vessels provides both a pull and a push factor vis-à-vis illegal immigration, in most cases where migrant boats see SaR vessels in the Aegean Sea, they quickly flee without approaching.

Operational Challenges

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General description of operational capability

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Additional Considerations

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