The Seventh Art and the Public Discourse on Maritime Migration

  • Laura Carballo PiñeiroEmail author


This paper looks at rescue-at-sea practices and their aftermath as portrayed in a number of European films. In this World, Malta Radio, Bon Voyage, Welcome, Terraferma, 4.1 Miles and Man at Sea address maritime migration, States’ omission in complying with their international obligations, and how the latter obliges individuals to make difficult choices against the backdrop of the law of the sea. The focus of these stories is on the saviours and their conflicts of interests while migrants are allocated a secondary role and one in which they are usually portrayed as victims. Although this is in line with the humanitarian response that these films primarily seek to trigger, it deprives migrants of their rights. As victims, migrants are at the mercy of saviours and rescuing them or not is an act of compassion, and not one legally compulsory. The paper finally argues that a holistic rights-based approach to the migration challenge is needed, with equality as the key word.


Maritime migration Maritime interception Search and rescue operations Humanitarian law Human rights law 



  1. 1.
    Slovica, P., D. Västfjälla, A. Erlandssonc, and R. Gregorya. 2017. Iconic photographs and the ebb and flow of empathic response to humanitarian disasters. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 114(4): 640–644.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Beck, U. 1992. Risk Society, Towards a New Modernity. London: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Giddens, A. 1999. Risk and Responsibility. Modern Law Review 62(1): 1–10.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Cojocariu, G. 2014. The Phenomenon of Media Communication. Contemporary Readings in Law and Social Justice 6(1): 662–673.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Lévinas, E. 1993. Humanism of the Other Man. Madrid: Caparrós Editores.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    de Lucas, J. 2002. Blade Runner. El Derecho, guardián de la diferencia. Valencia: Tirant lo Blanch.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Santos, B.S. 2017. The Resilience of Abyssal Exclussions in Our Societies: Toward a Post-Abyssal Law. Tilburg Law Review 22: 237–258.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Celik-Rappas, I.A. 2017. Refugees as Innocent Bodies, Directors as Political Activists: Humanitarism and Compassion in European Cinema. Revista Latinoamericana de Estudios sobre Cuerpos, Emociones y Sociedad 23: 81–89.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Andersson, R. 2016. Europe’s Failed ‘Fight’ Against Irregular Migration: Ethnographic Notes on a Counterproductive Industry. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 42(7): 1055–1075.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Gogou, K. 2017. The EU-Turkey Deal: Europe’s Year of Shame. Amnesty International. Available at: Accessed 30 Jan 2019.
  11. 11.
    Matziaraki, D. 2016. 4.1 Miles. New York Times September 28. Available at: Accessed 30 Jan 2019.
  12. 12.
    Wilkins, M. 2015. Bon Voyage. A Short Film in Pre-Production. Accessed 30 Jan 2019.
  13. 13.
    Miltner, B. 2006. Irregular Maritime Migration: Refugee Protection Issues in Rescue and Interception. Fordham International Law Journal 30: 75–125.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Willheim, E. 2003. MV Tampa: The Australian Response. International Journal of Refugee Law 15: 161.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Appleby, K. 2017. Strengthening the Global Refugee Protection System: Recommendations for the Global Compact on Refugees. Journal on Migration and Human Security 5(5): 780.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Liempt, I. van. 2016. A Critical Insight into Europe’s Criminalisation of Human Smuggling—SIEPS European Policy Paper. SIEPS, Swedish Institute for European Policy Studies, 1–12.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
  18. 18.
    EUROPOL. 2016. Migrant smuggling in the EU. Accessed 30 Jan 2019.
  19. 19.
    Leggeri, F. 2017. Rettungseinsätze vor Libyien müssen auf den Prüfstand. Die Welt February 27.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    The Institute of Race Relations. 2017. Humanitarism: The Unacceptable Face of Solidarity. Accessed 6 May 2018.
  21. 21.
    Commission Staff Working Document. 2017. REFIT Evaluation of the EU legal framework against facilitation of unauthorised entry, transit and residence: the Facilitators Package (Directive 2002/90/EC and Framework Decision 2002/946/JHA). [SWD(2017) 117 final].Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Robinson, D. 2016. EU border force flags concerns over charities’ interaction with migrant smugglers. Financial Times December 15.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Mangano, A. 2011. I pescatori tunisini salvano 44 naufraghi, l’Italia li processa. Linkiesta September 27.
  24. 24.
    Agence France Press in Mytilene. 2018. Spanish Firefighters in Court Accused of Trying to Help Migrants Enter Greece. The Guardian May 7.
  25. 25.
    Tondo, L. 2018. Italy Releases Tunisian Fishermen held on Suspicion of Smuggling Migrants. The Guardian September 22.
  26. 26.
    Tondo, L. 2018. My Crew Saved 218 Migrants from Drowning—So Why are we the Enemy? The Guardian March 24.
  27. 27.
    Gammeltoft-Hansen, Th, and N.F. Tan. 2017. The End of the Deterrence-Paradigm. Future Directions for Global Refugee Policy. Journal on Migration and Human Security 5: 28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Ticktin, M. 2016. Thinking Beyond Humanitarian Borders. Social Research: An International Quaterley 83(2): 255–271.Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    Arendt, H. 1951. Origins of Totalitarism. New York: Meridian Books.Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    OECD. 2011. Divide We Stand: Why Inequality Keeps Rising. Paris: OECD Publishing.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    OECD. 2015. In It Together: Why Less Inequality Benefits All Us. Paris: OECD Publishing. Scholar
  32. 32.
    International Labour Office. 2016. Assessment of Labour Provisions in Trade and Investment Agreements. Geneva: International Labour Office.Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    Carballo Piñeiro, L. 2019. Labour Migrations and Private International Law. In Diversity and Integration: Exploring Ways Forward, ed. M.B. Noodt Taquela and V. Ruiz Ngou. Edinburg: Edinburg University Press.Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    Hugo, G. 2013. What We Know About Circular Migration and Enhanced Mobility. Migration Policy Institute. Policy Brief 7: 1–10.Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    van Loon, Hans. 2016. The Global Horizon of PIL. Recueil des Cours 380: 9–108.Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    Maillot, P. 2012. L’écriture cinématographique de la sociologie filmique. Comment penser en sociologue avec une caméra? La nouvelle revue du travail 1: 1–11.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Nippon Foundation Chair of Maritime Labour Law and PolicyWorld Maritime UniversityMalmöSweden

Personalised recommendations