Search and Rescue Ships as Exceptional Spaces in the Mediterranean: Navigating Emergencies, Threats and Governmental Actions
Since 2014, there has been an increase in non-governmental Search and Rescue activities (SAR) on the Central Mediterranean Route (CMR). Scholarly attention has focused on refugees’ and migrants’ lived experiences on the route. When engaging with non-governmental SAR ships, recent migration scholarship mostly concentrated on their function to rescue and to be a symbol for political activism. What is currently missing is a thorough exploration of rescue ships exceeding their function to rescue through the lens of humanitarian action.
Scholarship has to expand on mechanisms and dynamics of political interference and the rejection thereof. Hence, I explore how SAR vessels can be conceptualized as exceptional spaces and how this affects NGO activists on those ships. This article is based on semi-structured interviews with activists that worked with SAR NGOs and on participatory observation on a SAR vessel. The article offers specific insights into the dynamics and mechanisms of rescue ships as exceptional spaces on the CMR and engages with wider debates about exceptional spaces.