Taking the Politics Out of Search and Rescue

When you come upon a person drowning, should politics make you pause before rescuing him?

Taking the politics out of Search and Rescue (SAR) helps all parties involved. It simplifies the rescue coordination process and guarantees disembarkation at the nearest safe port. It puts priority on helping people in distress, no matter where they come from. Commercial vessels can get back to business and rescue operations like MOAS can respond faster to the next distress call.

When UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres invited MOAS to the Dialogue on Protection Challenges, we jumped at the chance. At the December conference, held in Geneva, over 450 people from all over the world exchanged ideas on the this year’s theme, ‘Protection at Sea.’ In plenary sessions, formal meetings and round-table discussions, NGOs, governments, shipping industry representatives, academic and experts exchanged some very good ideas and proposals.

Coordinator of the University of Pisa’s Observatory on European Migration Law Dr Marcello Di Filippo gave one of the most compelling proposals I heard over the two-day conference. In ‘Delinking Disembarkation and Assumption of Responsibility for Asylum Seekers,’ Dr Di Filippo suggested that separating SAR from asylum processing could better protect the safety and human rights of migrants.

Dr Di Filippo argued that rescuing ships can disembark migrants more safely and effectively if receiving countries don’t shoulder automatic assumption of responsibility for new arrivals. Speedy disembarkation protects the dignity of rescued people and removes some of the disincentives that private sector rescuers face.

Safety. Human rights. Tolerance. Respect for diversity.

In his closing remarks at the conference, High Commissioner Guterres suggested using these simple values and principles to tackle the complicated problems of migration.

Breaking the ties between disembarkation and receiving-country assumption of responsibility is a step toward the goal of a better life for migrants. With clear, safe disembarkation points, MOAS can do its job even more effectively. With politics out of the picture, MOAS can rescue and deliver even more migrants safely and humanely to shore.

MOAS has proved they can respond, coordinate and assist in Search and Rescue. We are looking to fund the 2015 season and look forward to discussing this topic further. Contact me at info@moas.eu.