All at Sea? Humanitarian Search and Rescue Interventions in the Central Mediterranean History/ethnography/moral philosophy

Lead Research Organisation: University of Oxford
Department Name: International Development


This research aims to answer two interlinked and increasingly pressing questions: Can the humanitarian principles of neutrality, impartiality and independence be upheld in search and rescue operations at sea? Most importantly, should they be upheld, or does the situation call for a rethinking of these guiding philosophies? Humanitarian principles have guided the work of aid agencies working in emergency situations for decades and have long been subject to contestation and debate, although the recent rise in search and rescue operations raises more fundamental questions about the desirability and viability of these doctrines. This D.Phil project will adopt an interdisciplinary approach to explore the character and implication of search and rescue operations for humanitarian action. First, it will employ historical research into previous NGO search and rescue missions in order to understand what makes recent interventions distinctive.
Second, it will explore ethical debates on maritime rescue in order to unpack the moral arguments employed by NGOs in the Mediterranean. Third, it will engage in an ethnographic exploration of the quotidian dilemmas faced by aid agencies working on search and rescue in order to uncover emic humanitarian perspectives and organisational debates that have emerged since the climax of the 'European migrant crisis' in 2015.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/J500112/1 30/09/2011 01/10/2022
2260338 Studentship ES/J500112/1 30/09/2019 20/10/2023 Imogen Dobie
ES/P000649/1 30/09/2017 29/09/2027
2260338 Studentship ES/P000649/1 30/09/2019 20/10/2023 Imogen Dobie