Civil-Military Cooperation in the Mediterranean Sea: Lessons Not Learnt
Between 2014 and 2018, several NGOs ran Search and Rescue (SAR) operations in the Mediterranean. Cooperating effectively with European naval assets, NGOs saved more than 110,000 asylum seekers and migrants from drowning at sea. Since 2017, however, European authorities grew increasingly wary of non-governmental SAR operations. As anti-immigration forces gained ground in European politics, the political imperative of stemming irregular entries into the EU led European governments to criminalise not only human smuggling, but also humanitarian activities. The criminalization of NGOs rescuing migrants undermined civil-military cooperation and dismantled an effective operation which had a critical role in reducing mortality at sea.
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