Black Eye for NATO and European SAR Organizations

NATO and European SAR organizations are being blamed for the death of 63 refugees from the fighting in Libya. The voyage started with 72 refugees, 50 men, 20 women, and two babies. Fifteen days later, when the craft drifted back to Libya, only ten remained alive and one of those subsequently died.

The media (CNN story here, MailOnline (UK) here) seems to have concentrated on this case as emblematic of failure, but it does not begin to tell the story. According to Aljazeera, “The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) estimates that roughly 50,000 people attempted to cross the Mediterranean by boat in 2011 and close to 2,000 drowned.”

To the outside observer there seem to have been many opportunities to rescue the refugees. Not having done so is seen as racist. NATO and European Coast Guards are being blamed, but might simply have been overwhelmed.

Clearly rescue organizations are being held to a very high standards. It is not enough that they rescue the vast majority of those in distress, they must rescue everyone without fail. It is not unlikely that once, perhaps several times, these organizations responded to reports of the boat adrift, located a boat in the area and assumed the mission was accomplished.

Its not unlikely our Coast Guard will find itself in a similar situation again.



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