Global Policy Forum

Transnational Monitoring against the deadly Injustice at Sea


source: Info-Flyer WatchTheMed
In 2012, the 14 members of the Boats4People campaign launched Watch The Med (Watch the Mediterranean Sea), an online mapping platform to monitor the deaths and violations of migrants’ rights at the maritime borders of the EU and "end the impunity at sea". Today the project further involves a wide network of organisations, activists and researchers. As the issue of migration across the Mediterannean has recently gained public attention with the deaths of several hundred migrants, this initiative deserves more attention.

16 October, 2013 | Watch The Med

Alternative alarm system against EU border regime at sea

Since the beginning of the 90s, thousands of people have tried to reach Europe clandestinely by boat, thereby contesting laws, policies and practices that attempt to limit the movement of the majority of Non-Europeans and transform them into “illegals” if they manage to reach Europe. However this act of freedom has come at heavy human cost. Over 13.000 cases of deaths at the maritime boundaries of the EU have been reported since the beginning of the 90s. Deaths and migrants’ rights violations are thus the structural product of the current border regime.

Thus far, the EU as well as the states that serve as its watchdogs could avoid assuming responsibility for these deaths – it is difficult to prove who failed to act in an emergency in the open sea or who denied the right to demand asylum to migrants by pushing their boat back, for these violations happen far away from the gaze of activists and the public. Through the WatchTheMed online mapping platform, we seek to develop a powerful tool to monitor those who control migration and bring an end the impunity at sea.

Through the transnational cooperation with migrants’ rights organisations, activists, researchers, migrants, and seafarers active in, around and beyond the Mediterranean and the use of new mapping technologies, WatchTheMed aims to document the deaths and violations that are the structural product of the exclusionary border regime implemented at sea. The online map allows to spatialise incidents across the complex legal and political geography of the Mediterranean Sea. Through the accounts of survivors and witnesses, but also the analysis of ocean currents, winds, mobile phone data and satellite imagery, it is possible to determine in which Search and Rescue zone, jurisdictions and operational areas an incident occurred – as well as showing other boats who were in the vicinity of those in distress. Spatializing such information is essential to determine responsibility for violations at sea. Apart from reconstructing past events, the participatory nature of the platform allows many different actors to to indicate ongoing situations of distress.

The documentation generated by WatchTheMed seeks to support the work of organisations that defend migrants’ rights to inform migrants on the risks of migration on their rights and security at sea, pressure authorities into respecting their obligations at sea, support the ongoing campaigns by the relatives of the dead and disappeared at sea, and support legal proceedings against those who violated the rights of migrants.

Looking to the future - A Vision of intervention

Apart from reconstructing past events and determining responsibility for migrants‘ deaths, Watch The Med has further potential. It would be technically conceivable to map real-time events and spread information about people in distress at sea to immediately pressure actors at sea to rescue them. In order for this to materialise, a well-functioning SOS system and a responsive civilian network across the Mediterranean are necessary preconditions.

Visit the WatchTheMed online mapping platform here.

Read the Flyer of WatchTheMed: english, french, arabic.


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