The ETUC is calling on European Council President Donald Tusk to call an emergency Council meeting to agree action to tackle the humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean Sea.   

The world’s richest nations cannot sit by and watch desperate people drown in their thousands just off the EU’s coastline” said Luca Visentini, ETUC Confederal Secretary. “The deaths that have followed the end of search and rescue operations last year were entirely predictable, and are all the more reprehensible as a result. Those who said that search and rescue just encouraged migration should hold their heads in shame.”

Rescue cannot be left to the goodwill of passing commercial ships. The EU has a humanitarian duty to save the lives of people fleeing war and poverty.”    

The ETUC calls for

  • Renewed search and rescue operations
  • The EU and member states to share the financial burden with Italy, Malta and other countries that happen to be on the other side of the Mediterranean from the departing migrants.
  • An Extraordinary Council meeting to agree an international protection programme, with urgent measures in derogation to the current EU asylum rules, with the involvement of all member states.

In December 2014 the ETUC denounced the decision of the Italian Government and EU institutions to abandon search and rescue missions in the Mediterranean warning that desperate people willing to risk their lives to escape war and despair cannot be left to drown.


The ETUC has repeatedly called for renewed humanitarian action to save migrants at sea.