Rescuing migrants and refugees at sea: private efforts vs. government funding

The above is an incredible and moving video from AJ+. As an increasing number of refugees flee the wars in Syria, across the Middle East (and further abroad), the need to provide protection and aid is of primary importance.

A story of a private foundation taking on the role of patrolling waters and saving lives raises questions, though. I can’t help but feel like this shouldn’t be necessary as a private initiative: that the European Union and other governments should be funding these efforts as a public good and necessity. Reading that the EU cut their funding for search and rescue by two-thirds last year leaves a sickening feeling in my stomach.

At the same time, though, the work of the Migrant Offshore Aid Station and the Catrambone family points to what is maybe a deeper truth: that with such fickle governments that can cut funding at any time, perhaps we need to instead be focussing on people-powered initiatives. They may at times be more precarious that publicly funded services, but are not subject to a change in government or the swaying of public opinion polls, presenting a possibly more long-lasting solution.

Either way, it’s an incredible response to a catastrophic situation, and I hope crowdfunding efforts to add another boat yield results.


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Tim McSorley

Born and raised in Montreal. Passionnate for community and alternative media. Co-ordinator with Voices-Voix Coalition, former editor with The Dominion magazine and the Media Co-op. Writer, editor, researcher.

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