Controlling the controllers

Migration The goal of the alternative alarm system 'Watch the Med' is to save lives.

3 October 2013 remains as a day of shame. 380 refugees drowned in the sinking of a decrepit ship off the Mediterranean island of Lampedusa. The politicians all chorused that the disaster was a European one, impossible to prevent. Pope Francis was the only one to find other and more accurate words. At a mass on Lampedusa he called for a turning away from a 'globalisation of indifference', and attacked a European culture of well-being that 'makes us think of ourselves, that makes us insensitive to the cries of others'. By contrast, the politicians in Brussels decided to upgrade the Frontex border patrol agency, adding the Eurosur electronic surveillance network. However, ultimately more 'border management' means more death and suffering. The monitoring project 'Watch The Med' is trying to use an alternative alarm system (watchthemed.net) to counter this policy of isolationism. The project, which its initiators describe as an act of 'forensic oceanography', creates an interactive map of satellite photos, wind movements, currents and recordings of emergency calls, which in combination with statements from surviving refugees is used to produce maps of the movements of refugee boats which can be used – in court, if necessary – to document failures to provide assistance. An ambitious but not impossible goal. Even before Edward Snowden, we knew that surveillance leaves its own trail, and the project makes use of this knowledge. medico supports 'Watch The Med' with technical development of the maps and with research trips to interview survivors.

Published: 19. August 2014

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