Capability Gap

Insufficient means and lack of coordination for effective Search and Rescue (SaR)Operations


Although search and rescue as a definition is not present in the online Cambridge dictionary (2021)[1] Science Daily[2] defines as search and rescue (SAR) an operation mounted by emergency services, often well-trained volunteers, to find someone believed to be in distress, lost, sick or injured either in a remote or difficult to access area, such as mountains, desert or forest, or at sea. The International Search and Rescue Advisory Group INSARAG focuses more on urban terrains. The maritime part of SAR is based on the  International Maritime Organization (IMO) 1979 International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue, aimed at developing an international maritime SAR plan, so that, no matter where an accident occurs, the rescue of persons in distress at sea will be coordinated by a SAR organization and, when necessary, by co-operation between neighbouring SAR organizations There are also other initiatives like the International Maritime Rescue Federation (IMRF), which is the international non-governmental organisation (NGO) working to develop and improve maritime search and rescue (SAR) capacity around the world, improving maritime SAR capability worldwide. It is important to be mentioned that as a result of the recent migration crisis, IOM, the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) coproduced a Guide for rescue at sea outlining the principles and practices should applied to refugees and migrants[3].

1.CGF.3&4 is two folded. It related to practitioners having insufficient means to conduct SAR operations and at the same time there is a perceived lack of coordination for effective SAR operations. Maritime SAR operations are mostly assumed by the Coast Guard, while police and various law enforcement authorities assist the Coast Guard in their efforts. Frontex supports SAR operations with surveillance capabilities while those operations are coordinated by the national Maritime Rescue Coordination Centres (MRCC). Since private entities (such as NGOs) intervene in SAR operations with vessels, for the cooperation between them and Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs). Implementing these recommendations is crucial for the safety of everyone involved.

The existence of volunteer SAR vessels in an area, it is believed that it does not offer additional incentives for migrants to cross over to Europe, knowing that they will be rescued should anything happen. Migrations is a complex issue, and practitioners experience shows that organized crime networks, that partake in migrant smuggling, would try their best to avoid routes where they would come across SAR vessels. So, although the existence of vessels provides both a pull and a push factor vis-à-vis illegal immigration, in most cases where migrant boats see SAR vessels in the Aegean Sea, they quickly flee without approaching.





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