Search and Rescue: From Celebration to Criminalisation
Date: Wednesday, 5 July, 6:00 PM
Join us and Oxfam Ireland for an insightful #FirstWeds discussion on the critical issue of search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean. Since 2014, more than 25,000 people have died or gone missing while trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea. In 2022 alone, a staggering 2011 people died. Yet, many Search and Rescue operations have been cut, leaving a void in lifesaving efforts. In response, NGOs have stepped in to fill this gap, only to face criminalization.
While the Irish Navy received the People of the Year Award in 2015 for their vital work saving lives in the Mediterranean in missions with Italy and the EU, the nature of these missions has since shifted. The EU focus has turned to using operations to ‘disrupt the business model of smugglers’ rather than save lives, with the argument that rescue is a ‘pull factor’. However, in 2016 the UNHCR found that the likelihood of dying in the Central Mediterranean Sea rose from 1 in every 269 arrivals to 1 in every 47.
At the same time, civil society lifesaving work is being criminalised in a number of EU countries. In January 2023, the new Italian government introduced a decree imposing strict conditions on civilian rescue operators and severe penalties if they didn’t comply. For example, they can only do one rescue at a time, they cannot go to the closest safe port but to one ‘assigned’, which can add days more of travel on to the rescue boat.
Search and Rescue, intertwined with the protection of human life, is a vital topic for anyone interested in human rights. Join our panellists on First Wednesdays in July as they discuss the criminalisation of search and rescue; forced returns to Libya; government actions that restrict people’s movement in the name of ‘saving lives’, and the right to cross a border to ask for protection.
Together we will explore why these are an issue for us in Ireland and what we can do to right this injustice, prevent the breakdown of our European values and laws happening on the EU borders, and stand in solidarity with refugees and those saving their lives.