1.   On the high seas, where there are reasonable grounds to suspect that a vessel is engaged in the smuggling of migrants by sea, the participating units shall take one or more of the following measures, subject to the authorisation of the flag State, in accordance with the Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants, and where relevant, national and international law:

(a)

requesting information and documentation on ownership, registration and elements relating to the voyage of the vessel, and on the identity, nationality and other relevant data on persons on board, including whether there are persons in urgent need of medical assistance;

(b)

stopping, boarding and searching the vessel, its cargo and persons on board, and questioning persons on board and informing them that persons directing the vessel may face penalties for facilitating the voyage.

2.   If evidence confirming that suspicion is found, the participating units may take one or more of the following measures, subject to the authorisation of the flag State, in accordance with the Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants, and where relevant, national and international law:

(a)

seizing the vessel and apprehending persons on board;

(b)

warning and ordering the vessel not to enter the territorial sea or the contiguous zone, and, where necessary, requesting the vessel to alter its course towards a destination other than the territorial sea or the contiguous zone;

(c)

conducting the vessel or persons on board to a third country or otherwise handing over the vessel or persons on board to the authorities of a third country;

(d)

conducting the vessel or persons on board to the host Member State or to a neighbouring participating Member State.

3.   Any measure taken in accordance with paragraph 1 or 2 shall be proportionate and shall not exceed what is necessary to achieve the objectives of this Article.

4.   For the purposes of paragraphs 1 and 2, the host Member State shall instruct the participating unit appropriately through the International Coordination Centre.

5.   Where the vessel is flying the flag or displays the marks of registry of the host Member State or of a participating Member State, that Member State may, after confirming the nationality of the vessel, authorise one or more of the measures laid down in paragraphs 1 and 2. The host Member State shall then instruct the participating unit appropriately through the International Coordination Centre.

6.   Where the vessel is flying the flag or displays the marks of registry of a Member State that is not participating in the sea operation or of a third country, the host Member State or a participating Member State, depending on whose participating unit has intercepted that vessel, shall notify the flag State, shall request confirmation of registry and, if nationality is confirmed, shall request that the flag State take action to suppress the use of its vessel for smuggling of migrants. If the flag State is unwilling or unable to do so either directly or with the assistance of the Member State to whom the participating unit belongs, that Member State shall request authorisation from the flag State to take any of the measures laid down in paragraphs 1 and 2. The host Member State or the participating Member State shall inform the International Coordination Centre of any communication with the flag State and of the intended actions or measures authorised by the flag State. The host Member State shall then instruct the participating unit appropriately through the International Coordination Centre.

7.   Where, though flying a foreign flag or refusing to show its flag, there are reasonable grounds to suspect that the vessel is, in reality, of the same nationality as a participating unit, that participating unit shall verify the vessel’s right to fly its flag. To that end, it may approach the suspect vessel. If suspicion remains, it shall proceed to a further examination on board the vessel, which shall be carried out with all possible consideration.

8.   Where, though flying a foreign flag or refusing to show its flag, there are reasonable grounds to suspect that the vessel is, in reality, of the nationality of the host Member State or a participating Member State, the participating unit shall verify the vessel’s right to fly its flag.

9.   Where, in the cases referred to in paragraph 7 or 8, the suspicions regarding the nationality of the vessel prove to be founded, that host Member State or that participating Member State may authorise one or more of the measures laid down in paragraphs 1 and 2. The host Member State shall then instruct the participating unit appropriately through the International Coordination Centre.

10.   Pending or in the absence of authorisation of the flag State, the vessel shall be surveyed at a prudent distance. No other measures shall be taken without the express authorisation of the flag State, except those necessary to relieve imminent danger to the lives of persons or those measures which derive from relevant bilateral or multilateral agreements.

11.   Where there are reasonable grounds to suspect that a stateless vessel is engaged in the smuggling of migrants by sea, the participating unit may board and search the vessel with a view to verifying its statelessness. If evidence confirming that suspicion is found, the participating unit shall inform the host Member State which may take, directly or with the assistance of the Member State to whom the participating unit belongs, further appropriate measures as laid down in paragraphs 1 and 2 in accordance with national and international law.

12.   A Member State whose participating unit has taken any measure in accordance with paragraph 1 shall promptly inform the flag State of the outcome of that measure.

13.   The national official representing the host Member State or a participating Member State at the International Coordination Centre shall be responsible for facilitating communications with the relevant authorities of that Member State in seeking authorisation to verify the right of a vessel to fly its flag or to take any of the measures laid down in paragraphs 1 and 2.

14.   Where the grounds to suspect that a vessel is engaged in the smuggling of migrants on the high seas prove to be unfounded or where the participating unit does not have jurisdiction to act, but there remains a reasonable suspicion that the vessel is carrying persons intending to reach the border of a Member State and to circumvent checks at border crossing points, that vessel shall continue to be monitored. The International Coordination Centre shall communicate information about that vessel to the National Coordination Centre of the Member States towards which it is directed.

Source : REGULATION (EU) No 656/2014