Welcome to a seminar with Daniela DeBono, Malmö University and Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies, European University Institute

"Solidarity at Sea"


Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) rescued 50,000 people in the Mediterranean Sea in 2016. From 2017, these organizations were increasingly criminalized by EU member states and agencies, accused of ‘colluding with smugglers’ and acting as a pull factor. In this climate, as Italy and the EU increased cooperation with Libya to stop migrants from taking to the seas, many suspended their operations. This paper explores the search and rescue efforts of NGOs in the central Mediterranean Sea in the 21st century, between 2014 and 2018. This period saw the unfolding of the so-called ‘refugee crisis’ and ‘migration crisis’, when larger numbers of arrivals were registered and a series of key EU migration and border control policies were passed in quick succession. By drawing on the increasingly contentious relationship between the NGOs and states (Italy and Malta, in particular), we examine the ways in which the social construction of the sea shapes solidarity at sea and government response to it. This allows us to also elaborate on the relationship between crises and citizen-led solidarity.

Short bio

Daniela DeBono is currently Marie Sklodowska-Curie COFAS Fellow at the Global Governance Programme, Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies, European University Institute. She is on research leave from Malmö University, Sweden where she is Senior Lecturer in International Migration and Ethnic Relations at the Department of Global Political Studies. Her main research interests primarily lie in the migration-human rights nexus. She also pursues social issues from a children's rights perspective. This reflects her training in anthropology, sociology, human rights and migration studies. She is currently working on a three-year project looking at various aspects of daily life in EU border areas where irregularly-arriving maritime migrants are saved from the sea and disembarked. The project is entitled: "Daily encounters at the border: reception in the EU and irregular migrants arriving by sea". Her latest projects analysed analysed foster care in Malta from a children's rights perspective and migrants' experiences of deportation from Sweden (MIM - Malmo, Sweden), and her PhD project sought to identify the cultural and socio-political aspects of Maltese culture which hinder the adoption of human rights within the irregular migration field (SCMR - Sussex, UK).