BMJ Global Health
Federica Zamatto, Stefano Argenziano, Jovana Arsenijevic, et al.
Date of Publication: 
Thursday, September 14, 2017
  • In the late 2014, owing to lack of European Union support, the Italian state retreated from their Mare Nostrum—a proactive ‘Search and Rescue’ (SAR) operation in the central Mediterranean leaving thousands to die at sea.
  • Humanitarian Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) including Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) stepped in to fill this gap but have been recently accused of being a ‘pull factor’ for migrants and refugees and being a cause for deterioration in maritime safety by increasing deaths at sea.
  • Contrary to the pull factor hypothesis, the number of sea arrivals during the NGO involvement period (with proactive SAR operations) was lower than during equivalent prior periods. Mortality rates were also substantially lower during the NGO period compared with similar prior periods.
  • These findings strongly support arguments that SAR operations by humanitarian NGOs reduce mortality risks and have little or no effect on the number of arrivals.
Type of Resource: 
Research & Analysis
Publication Year: