#FirstWeds Summer Series 2023 (Part 2): Search and Rescue: From Celebration to Criminalisation

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. 

Register now!


Syed Hasnain is co-founder and president of UNIRE (the Italian National Union of Refugees and Exiles), the first refugee-led network actively engaged in meaningful participation of refugees in policy making process, self-representation of displaced people in public events and advocating for narrative change around migration. As president of UNIRE he is a member of the Expert Group on the Views of Migrants in the Field of Migration, Asylum and  Integration at the EU Commission. The mission of the group is to provide advice and expertise on policies in the field of migration, asylum, and integration of migrants. He has lived the experience of forced displacement as a minor. He is a co-founder of ARENE (Afghan Refugees Expert Network in Europe) and the European Coalition of Migrants and Refugees, which aims to advocate for refugees’ basic right to get involved in policy areas of European institutions. He worked with several humanitarian NGOs like Save the Children, Jesuit Refugee Services, UNHCR, Intersos and MSF.

Currently, he is a Project Officer and Social Media Manager with the Missing Children Europe organization.

Dónal Gorman is Communications and Advocacy Manager with Médecins Sans Frontières – Doctors Without Borders Ireland. He has worked as an Emergency Communications Manager with MSF in South Sudan and as part of MSF’s Search and Rescue Operations in the Central Mediterranean Sea. Dónal has worked as Communications Advisor for MSF’s humanitarian operational responses in Sierra Leone, Syria, Iraq, Turkey, Yemen, Russia, Afghanistan, India and Bangladesh. Before joining MSF in 2014 Dónal worked as a Journalist and has a background of over nine years in the Irish print and broadcast media.

This session will be moderated by Dr Hassan Ould Moctar, a Fellow in International Development at the London School of Economics. Hassan has been active in several solidarity groups in Ireland, including the Anti-Racism Network Ireland (ARN, the IPSC, and anti-austerity movements. He is interested in the relationship between migration, borders, and development processes, with a regional focus on the West African Sahel and the Sahara. Before joining LSE, Hassan was an ESRC postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Development Studies at SOAS, University of London, where he also obtained his PhD in 2021. He is currently preparing a book based on his PhD thesis, which details how EU border externalisation policies interact with social relations and structures in Mauritania. 

FROM LEGAL OBLIGATIONS TO ILLEGAL PRACTICES: Challenging Pushbacks & the Erosion of the Rule of Law on the European Borders'

#FirstWeds Summer Series 2023

This event is a part of the First Wednesdays Summer Series 2023 organised in partnership with Oxfam Ireland. This series of two events will focus on the critical issue of EU pushbacks and the breakdown of the rule of law at the European borders. It aims to shed light on the human rights violations, law breaking, and ethical concerns associated with the EU’s pushback policies and unlawful actions towards people seeking protection.

Equal Right to Refuge - Take Action Now!

Urge the Irish Government to use their influence at EU level and ensure equal right to refuge for all.

Sign the Oxfam Ireland’s petition now.