Watch the Mediterranean Sea is an online mapping platform to monitor the deaths and violations of migrants' rights at the maritime borders of the EU. Through the platform the sister project Alarm Phone (alarmphone.org) developed, a digital community which operates a hotline for boatpeople in distress - no rescue, but Alarm.
OCTOBER 2014: Although we decided to operate the Alarm Phone throughout the entire Mediterranean Sea, during our preparation process we could hardly imagine how to effectively make use of our hotline in the Aegean area. Illegal push-backs by Greek coastguards were daily practices at that time, and while discussing this issue with refugees who had directly experienced such life-threatening situations, we thought it would be impossible to develop strategies for real-time interventions to prevent these practices.
OCTOBER 2015: Up to 100 distress calls and messages reached our shift teams in one week alone and nearly all of them came from the Aegean Sea. Every day and night rescue operations were carried out with realtime support of the Alarm Phone - an unexpected U-turn! This changing dynamic was the consequence of several intersecting factors: Syriza had come into power and halted most of the illegal push-back practices and also dismantled some pillars of the Greek-European detention regime. More and more refugees and migrants were under pressure to leave and move towards Europe and they succeeded in opening up a corridor to the north, heralding the long summer of migration. And between boat people, escorting groups of migrant communities, and our Alarm Phone, an amazing communication process and network developed, able to support the (attempted) sea crossing of thousands.
Watch the Mediterranean Sea was born in 2012 in the wake of the demands for freedom of movement, brought about by the Arab Spring and the demands for accountability for the many shipwrecks that occurred in 2011, when more and more people tried to cross to Europe, often at the cost of their lives. Initiated as a part of the Boats4People campaign by various networks, it monitors through the transnational cooperation with migrants’ rights organizations, activists, researchers, migrants, seafarers, and the use of new mapping technologies, the deaths and violations of migrants’ rights at the maritime borders of the EU. While the original purpose of the platform was documentation, since October 2014 it is also used as an intervention tool by the WTM’s sister project, the Alarm Phone, an emergency phone hotline for those in immediate distress at sea, which seeks to support people attempting to overcome Europe’s dangerous external borders.