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Death at Sea and the Securitisation of Search and Rescue – Queen Mary Workshop London
29. September · 8:00 - 17:00 UTC+1
Considering the current state of affairs in the Mediterranean, with migrant death tolls rising despite
inscreased operational presence at sea, SOLAS incidents recurring, allegations of refoulement and
undue interdiction, and the unclear boundaries demarcating the crimes of smuggling and trafficking
from genuine engagement in humanitarian assistance, this one-day event pursues a twofold purpose:
On one hand, it will provide a platform for mutual engagement and discussion between academics, civil
society organisations, EU agencies, and international bodies, on current trends regarding irregular
maritime crossings and, on the other hand, it will explore options for the development of a research-led,
evidence-based observatory of search and rescue (SAR) at sea.
Following up conversations during three previous meetings in Valencia (Spain), within the SOLIMED
initiative, hosted by the City Council and Regional Governement of Valencia, on 25-27 November 2016;
in Brussels, convened at the European Parliament by the GUE Parliamentary Group, on 28-29 March
2017; and in Berlin, held by Sea Watch, on 19-20 June 2017, the Queen Mary event aims to facilitate
the constitution of a ‘core group’ of stakeholders, including the rescue NGOs, practitioners, and EU and
international bodies, for the establishment of a SAR Observatory for the Mediterranean (SAROBMED),
based on the ‘Comprehensive Approach’ put forward in past and ongoing research.
The ‘Comprehensive Approach’ to maritime migration advanced in these publications provides a
suitable basis for the constitution of the Observatory. The integrated understanding of the different
branches of law applicable at sea that it promotes is particularly apt to produce a ‘common language’
for use by all actors concerned. Its potential to generate a shared understanding of contested notions,
like ‘distress at sea’, ‘delivery to a place of safety’, ‘primary responsibility for disembarkation’,
‘smuggling of migrants’, or ‘humanitarian assistance’, when SAR law is read in conjunction with human
rights and refugee law standards, is especially fit for the elaboration of the different data categories that
will constitute the SAROBMED tool, which, in turn, will have a life and impact beyond the maritime
domain. Indeed, the Observatory will furnish a tool for researchers, practioners, and policy makers to
design and assess law and policy operating at sea. It can contribute to creating a levelled-playing field,
through reliable SAR data accessible by all, that will help overcoming the current situation of opacity
and distrust prevailing in the Mediterranean, so detrimental for cooperative dynamics and common
understandings of problems and solutions to emerge.
09:00 Welcome by host institutions: Prof. Valsamis Mitsilegas (QMUL) and Dr. Violeta Moreno-Lax
(QMUL) / Dr. Daniel Ghezelbash (Macquarie).
09:15 Panel 1: SAR in the Mediterranean: Main Problems
Chair: Dr. Tineke Strik, Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE).
• Oscar Camps, Proactiva Open Arms.
• Cpt. Sandro Gallinelli, Italian Coast Guard.
• Cpt. Marco Fantinato, Guardia di Finanza / EUNAVFOR MED.
• Axel Grafmanns, Sea Watch.
• Mg. Simona Ragazzi, Tribunale di Catania
• Manuel Blanco, Proemaid.
• Comm. Stylianos Kourkoulis, Greek Coast Guard / FRONTEX.
• International Chamber of Shipping.
Discussion and Q/A
12:00 Panel 2: The ‘Comprehensive Approach’: A Possible Solution
Chair: Prof. Natalie Klein, Macquarie.
• Dr. Violeta Moreno-Lax, QMUL (very brief introduction).
• Adriano Silvestri, Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA).
• Federico Soda, International Organisation for Migration (IOM), Coordinating Office for the
• Julian Abril, International Maritime Organisation (IMO).
• Amnesty International.
Discussion and Q/A
14:00 Panel 3: Tools for a Common Understanding of Key Challenges: A SAR Observatory for
the Mediterranean (SAROBMED)
Chair: Kris Pollet, European Council of Refugees and Exiles (ECRE)
• Aurelie Ponthieu, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF).
• Morgane Nicot, UN Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
• Frank Laczko, Global Migration Data Analysis Centre (GMDAC)
• Tamara Last, VU Amsterdam / Border Deaths Project.
• Dr. Charles Heller and Lorenzo Pezzani, Forensic Oceanography (Goldsmiths).
• Dr. Derek Groen, Refugee Movements Simulations (Brunel).
Discussion and Q/A
16:30 Session 4: Developing the SAROBMED and the Way Forward
Co-Chairs: Amelia Martinez Lobo, Office of MEP Miguel Urban / Sarai Blanc, Independent
• Dr. Daniel Ghezelbash, Macquarie (brief introduction).
• Dr. Violeta Moreno-Lax, QMUL (brief introduction).
Small Group Discussions and Whole-Group Debate / Conclusions