Migrant deaths at EU maritime borders have more often been seen in the context of national border control, than in terms of migrant protection and human rights. The 2009 Stockholm Programme accepted the need for action to avoid tragedies at sea, and to ‘record’ and ‘identify’ migrants trying to reach the EU. But it did not specify how this should be done. There are parallels between these migrant deaths, and deaths which occur in conflict and humanitarian disaster. The principles of human rights and humanitarian law which apply in these situations should be developed to create legal and policy frameworks for use in the case of migrants who are missing or who die on EU sea frontiers. The purpose would be to enable evidence of identity to be preserved, to protect the rights of families to know the fate of their relatives, and to create common national and international procedures.