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The Sea Watch 3 migrant rescue ship

Standoff Politics: The Mediterranean Sea as a Contested Humanitarian Space

Michael Gordon, PhD Candidate, recently published an article on The Conversation examining the emergence of standoff politics and the criminalization of search and rescue NGOs in the Mediterranean Sea

Jul 19, 2019

Michael Gordon (PhD Candidate, Political Science) has recently published an article on The Conversation. The article explores the politics surrounding the recent standoff between the German civil society search and rescue organization, Sea Watch, and the Italian government off the coast Lampedusa. In this piece, Michael examines the highly political nature of search and rescue and the emergence of sea as a contested humanitarian space.

Standoff politics mark the most recent evolution and escalation in the criminalization of rescue and solidarity in the Mediterranean. While most visibly occurring with the Italian government, criminalizing humanitarianism and search and rescue organizations is part of a broader trend in the European Union. Standoffs are increasingly used as a political tool and punishment mechanism against civil society rescue NGOs as EU member states seek to reassert authority and control over the sea. Criminalizing rescue marks the continued refusal of EU member states to acknowledge the responsibility of regional border policy in producing migrant deaths at sea and highlights the active efforts to remove SAR NGOs from challenging this violent governance of the EU maritime border.

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