IOM, UNHCR Host Regional Workshop on Protection at Sea in Southern Mediterranean

Capacity Building, Migrant Assistance

Tunisia - On 21-22 September, IOM and UNHCR jointly organized and facilitated a regional workshop on Strengthening Protection at Sea in the Southern Mediterranean Sea Region in the Tunisian capital Tunis.

The event brought together officials from Morocco, Libya, Tunisia and Italy, as well representatives of the EU naval mission (EUNAVFOR Med) and academics to consider the humanitarian challenges faced in search and rescue of refugees and migrants crossing the Mediterranean.

“Saving lives at sea and securing effective capacities to rescue and to respond is a collective responsibility which should not be left to the coastal countries only. We need much stronger collaboration and coordination among neighbors and countries further along migration routes from the south to the north. In the past years, Tunisia has saved the lives of around 2,119 migrants and refugees stranded at sea who were on their way to Europe. We are calling on the international community and the EU governments to take serious action,” said Elyes Lakhal speaking for the Tunisian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

During the two-day event participants reviewed the mechanisms and cooperation efforts deployed in the southern Mediterranean by first responders to identify best practices, including standard operating procedures developed in Tunisia, and maximize the capabilities to save lives at sea and properly manage post-disembarkation activities.

“We have gathered for this workshop with the aim of identifying common approaches to saving lives at sea and prevent loss of life. With a global count surpassing 40,000 fatalities since 2000, there is no more urgent time than now to discuss how to better coordinate our search and rescue and disembarkation operations in the Mediterranean and beyond,” said IOM Senior Regional Advisor for the Middle East and North Africa Hassan Abdel Moneim Mostafa.

Mazin Abu Shanab, UNHCR Representative in Tunisia and UN Resident Coordinator ad interim said: "This event coincides with a historic week which has seen the UN General Assembly adopting the Declaration for Refugees and Migrants – the New York Declaration. International law and the international institutional framework provide us with a number of instruments which are the cornerstone of the rights-based approach for the protection of migrants and refugees in situations of rescue at sea.”

The event was the third in a series of regional workshops. The first was held in collaboration with the International Institute of Humanitarian Law (IIHL) in San Remo, Italy, on 7-9 March 2016. It focused on the Mediterranean routes, with participants coming from the relevant government authorities and first line responders from Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon, Turkey, Greece and Italy, as well as FRONTEX, NATO, commercial shippers and civil society representatives.

The second workshop in Jakarta, Indonesia on 26-27 July 2016 focused on issues germane to the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea, specifically detection, search and rescue, and disembarkation practices in the Southeast Asia region.

The Tunis workshop was co-funded by the UK Government’s Department for International Development (DFID) and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).

For more information, please contact Franz Prutsch at IOM Tunis, Tel: (+20) 1091874619 or Email: Or Chadi Ouanes at UNHCR Tunis, Tel: (+216) 50 504 364 or Email:

Italian Coast Guard rescues migrants and refugees bound for Italy. File photo: Francesco Malavolta / IOM