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Thursday, 16 April 2015

A valid need for increasing SAR resources in the Mediterranean

One of yesterday’s conversations in my head:
- How can you have a blog called ”Risky business at sea” and not write about the horrible conditions for boat refugees in the Mediterranean trying to get from Africa or Asia to Europe (or into EU)?
- I can’t and I’ve avoided it for too long.
- Why is that?
- The explanation is that it is a complicated problem. However, that isn’t a valid excuse!

So here we go:
This far 2015 (mid-April) reports (UNHCR) talked about 900 persons drowned or missing from these transports, for the same period 2014 the estimation was 47 persons! The explanation for this increase is reported to be the result of several changes since last year including the war Syria and further destabilization of several African countries south of the Sahara.

The direct cause of these deaths is the state of the ships used and how they are overloaded by refugees. However, that is because no one takes responsibility for the voyages and that people are willing to take great risks in order to cross the Mediterranean Sea. The long term solution therefore, off course, lies in reducing the need for crossing the Mediterranean. That is however not a simple task (and out of the scope for this blog). However, in the meantime we know that many boats and ships (as a result of the risks taken by the refugees and criminal acts by the people organizing the human trafficking) will capsize and or sink in the Mediterranean without the possibility to send out a distress call.

Do these seafarers, because they also are refugees, have less right to be expecting rescue than others? NO, but at the same time any seafarer cannot expect to be rescued instantly anywhere in the world. What you can expect depends on where you are, but it shouldn’t depend on who you are. Does that mean that we should relocate Europe’s Search and Rescue (SAR) resources to the Mediterranean Sea and these refugees in distress? We would probably save more people that way because nowhere else is the need for rescue as great. However, relocating all resources to one area is not possible (logistically, but also) as all nations have a responsibility for they their waters that cannot be left unattended. So even though relocating all SAR resources to the Mediterranean Sea would give the most bang for the buck it isn’t possible.

The EU replacement for the Italian Mare Nostrum, the Frontex Plus/Trition, is given reasoning above the right type of solution. However, it is unfortunately under equipped and under financed given the need.

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