Criminalizing solidarity: search and rescue in a neo-colonial sea

Mainwaring, Ċ. and DeBono, D. (2021) Criminalizing solidarity: search and rescue in a neo-colonial sea. Environment and Planning C: Politics and Space, 39(5), pp. 1030-1048. (doi: 10.1177/2399654420979314)

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Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) rescued over 110,000 people in the Central Mediterranean Sea between 2015 and 2017. From 2017, EU member states and agencies increasingly criminalized these organizations, accusing them of ‘colluding with smugglers’ and acting as a pull factor. In this climate, as Italy, Malta and the EU increased cooperation with Libya to stop people from taking to the seas, many suspended their operations. This article explores the search and rescue efforts of NGOs in the Central Mediterranean Sea between 2014 and 2018. We examine the criminalization of this NGO activity and argue that it is made possible through an oscillating neo-colonial imagination of the sea as mare nostrum and mare nullius, our sea and nobody’s sea, respectively. We build on the work of other scholars who have pointed to the activation of the Mediterranean as ‘empty’ in response to migration flows, erasing the historical connections of colonialism, empire, trade, and exchange in the Mediterranean as well as the contemporary legal geographies that govern the space. Here, we go further to develop the idea of a neo-colonial sea, which is alternately imagined as empty and ‘European’. We explore how NGOs disrupt these depictions, as well as the disappearing figures of the migrant and refugee amidst the contestations between NGOs and states.

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:Daniela DeBono draws on research funded by a Marie Curie COFAS Fellowship, the Swedish Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare (Forte), and the European Commission (2015–01219).
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Mainwaring, Dr Cetta
Authors: Mainwaring, Ċ., and DeBono, D.
College/School:College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Central and East European Studies
Journal Name:Environment and Planning C: Politics and Space
Publisher:SAGE Publications
ISSN (Online):2399-6552
Published Online:12 January 2021
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2021 The Authors
First Published:First published in Environment and Planning C: Politics and Space 39(5): 1030-1048
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons license

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
172704Controlling Mobility Remotely: The Rise of Visa RegimesMichele BurmanLeverhulme Trust (LEVERHUL)ECF-2015-644S&PS - Sociology