Saving Migrants’ Lives at Sea: Improving Search and Rescue Operations

Vasileios Kosmas, Michele Acciaro, Maria Besiou*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


The present study focuses on the Mediterranean Sea migration crisis and investigates the effectiveness of search and rescue (SAR) operations alongside measures to reduce the number of deaths of migrants at sea. It also describes the stakeholders involved in SAR activities. The paper first analyzes secondary data and the results of 24 in-depth interviews in order to develop an analytical framework, which is then complemented by a system dynamics model to explore the complexity and interactions among stakeholders in SAR operations. The study shows that the death toll at sea can be reduced by enhancing cooperation among stakeholders, by providing legal migration pathways under certain conditions, and by engaging in more effective migrant detection and interception at sea. Lastly, raising potential migrants’ awareness about the risk of death during the sea crossing should be seen as an additional measure, while SAR activities should be maintained to prevent loss of life at sea.
Original languageEnglish
JournalProduction and Operations Management
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)1872-1889
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2022

Bibliographical note

Published online: 4 January 2022.


  • Operational effectiveness
  • Migration by sea
  • Search and rescue
  • Mediterranean sea

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