20 Jul 2012

Two Boats in the Mediterranean and their Unfortunate Encounters with Europe’s Policies towards People on the Move

Leonhard den Hertog

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This paper examines two recent events in which people on the move making their way from Libya to Europe across the Mediterranean were either abandoned to die at sea or ‘pushed back’ (Hirsi case). It argues that these two cases are not incidental or isolated but rather part of a broader situation of concern in the Mediterranean. The paper highlights this situation and also connects it to Europe’s response to migratory flows during the Arab Spring. On the basis of independent reports, case law and first-hand accounts, it attributes these tragedies to two fundamental structural deficiencies in Europe’s approach to people on the move in the Mediterranean: 1) a general lack of accountability, among the most salient of which are the lack of legal clarity for SAR (search & rescue) and disembarkation obligations as well as a lack of monitoring of what actually happens in the Mediterranean and 2) a lack of solidarity amongst European states as well as across the Mediterranean. The paper then goes on to propose recommendations to correct those cross-cutting deficiencies.

Leonhard den Hertog is a Marie Curie PhD Fellow, Universities of Cologne & Edinburgh. EXACT Project on EU External Relations.

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