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For years there have been claims that sea rescue is a pull factor in asylum-related migration. But is this theory true? What is the debate about? Some argue that more people will dare to embark on the perilous journey across the Mediterranean, for instance from Libya or Morocco to Europe, because they believe they will be rescued from boats that are often not even seaworthy. Conservative politicians in particular regard sea rescue as an incentive to migrate. As a result, they criticize civilian sea rescue operations including Sea-Watch and Sea-Eye, groups that rescue tens of thousands of people in the Mediterranean every year. In some cases, the rescuers have been accused of colluding with smugglers, which in turn means they support human trafficking — an accusation the NGOs reject. EU ships no longer patrol along the migration routes and have saved hardly any lives since the naval mission Operation Sophia ended in spring 2020. One of the reasons why state rescue at sea has been so severely restricted is that Italy and Austria, for instance, feared these missions would lead to a rise in the influx of refugees and migrants.

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