Repoliticization Through Search and Rescue? NGOs and Humanitarian Migration Management in the Central Mediterranean

P. Cuttitta

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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This article analyses the search and rescue (SAR) activities carried
out by three NGOs (MOAS, MSF and Sea-Watch) in the Central
Mediterranean, and asks whether and in how far nongovernmental
SAR contributes to the repoliticization of the EU
maritime border. The article first introduces the concept of
depoliticization/repoliticization, as well as that of humanitarianization.
Two sections summarize the development of the SAR
regime and the governmentalization of international waters in
the Strait of Sicily from the Cap Anamur case to 2016, and from
late 2016 to recent days. Against this backdrop, the article
analyses the different political positions taken by MOAS, MSF
and Sea-Watch, their operational activities, as well as their
cooperation and relations with the other actors involved in
SAR. The three NGOs react differently to the contradictions
that are typical of humanitarian non-state action. MOAS keeps
a neutral political profile, whereas MSF and Sea-Watch regard
their SAR activities as part of a political, not only humanitarian
commitment. While the convergence of delocalized state sovereignty
and humanitarian reason leaves hardly any room for
manoeuvre, MSF and Sea-Watch try to question and contrast
governmental policies and practices, as well as to turn international
waters into a political stage from which they can make
their voice heard and on which they can play the watchdog role.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)632-660
Number of pages29
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Search and rescue; Humanitarianism; Depoliticization/Repoliticization; Migration and Border Management; NGOs


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