Sailing in Solidarity Against the Tide of Criminalization

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Throughout the twentieth century, EU member states have pursued strategies aimed at criminalizing CSOs involved in SAR operations in the Central Mediterranean. Since these strategies have made the maritime SAR space increasingly hostile for CSOs, the impact it has on their capacities and capabilities has to be examined. The present study provides a qualitative analysis of the consequences of criminalization strategies on SAR CSOs, with the aim of addressing the tug-of-war between geopolitical and geosocial in maritime space. It helps in the understanding of how SAR CSOs adapt and sustain their mission. Previous studies have already focused on the legislative and geopolitical aspects. Here, I go further by examining the geosocial aspect, specifically exploring the concept of solidarity to understand the practices and discourses of SAR CSOs. This study combines two datasets: semi-structured interviews as well as logbooks and reports from SAR CSOs. This study shows that approaches have varied over time and differed among administrations across EU states. I conclude that contemporary approaches are less outwardly confrontational, but they nonetheless limit the maritime rescue operations of CSOs. This study demonstrates that SAR CSOs not only endured, but also adapted, evolved, politicized, and paid a high price for solidarity.
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