The EU and its member states are imposing a survival test on refugees and migrants. Unable to enter the EU through safe and regular routes, tens of thousands attempt to cross the central Mediterranean each year. In the first nine months of 2014, over 2,500 people died trying. This report analyses shortcomings in the search and rescue services provided in the central Mediterranean and makes recommendations for their improvement. An adequately funded and appropriately mandated EU–led search and rescue operation is urgently needed.