Giorgia Bevilacqua | The Italian Yearbook of International Law Online
Between 2016 and 2017, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have provided humanitarian assistance in the Mediterranean on a regular basis and as dominant actors. Since 2017, however, the institutional equilibrium between Italy and NGOs changed and non-governmental rescues started to face political criticism, material hostilities at sea, as well as administrative and criminal proceedings. To deal with this bottleneck, the author considers crucial to establish whether NGOs are entitled to render assistance at sea, independently from States ’ instructions. To this purpose, the author illustrates preliminarily how the governmental tendency to securitise one of the European external sect borders contributed to creating a humanitarian gap in the area and then how the parallel attempt to non-governmentalise SAR activities generated and expanded. Illustrated the factual and legal background behind the non-governmentalisation of SAR initiatives in the context of migration at sea, the author investigates the specific capacity of international maritime and human rights law instruments to apply also to SAR activities conducted by NGOs. She demonstrates that the legitimacy of independent non-governmental rescues derives from various maritime treaties and recent soft-law instruments which stipulate and recommend that every shipmaster saves life at sea and concludes imagining a way forward to rebuild a cooperative equilibrium between Italy and civil society.