New EU rules on maritime surveillance: will they stop the deaths and push-backs in the Mediterranean?

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Series Details Volume 16, Number 7
Publication Date February 2014
ISSN 1756-851X
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When the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights was first adopted, in its initial nonbinding form, in 2000, many asked what certain of the rights contained in the Charter had to do with the EU at all. Most notably, why mention the right to life, when the EU did not carry out its own death penalty, or have coercive forces which killed anyone?

Of course, it would seem odd to have a human rights charter without including the right to life, and the EU had already developed a detailed foreign policy strategy opposing the death penalty worldwide. Subsequently the right to life also became relevant to the development of the Common European Asylum System. But more strikingly, the significant death toll of migrants in the Mediterranean has widely been blamed on EU policies – whether those policies are carried out by the Member States’ authorities alone, or by those authorities as coordinated by the EU’s borders agency, Frontex, which began operations in 2005. Moreover, the national authorities and Frontex have often been blamed for ‘push-backs’: the forced return of migrants’ vessels to unsafe countries, which were condemned by the European Court of Human Rights in its 2012 judgment in Hirsi v Italy.

The response to these criticisms was the adoption of rules governing maritime surveillance operations coordinated by Frontex, first of all in the form of a Council measure implementing the Schengen Borders Code.


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