Data on migration flows could help commercial shipping predict where rescue situations are likely, IHS Maritime has been told.
Professor Brad Blitz, who is leading the Mediterranean Observatory on Migration, Protection, and Asylum (MOMPA), which was launched this week, said data collected by MOMPA will offer ship operators “useful” information on the number of migrants they can expect to experience on different routes, and what ports are open.
“Having a better sense of [the flows] will mean that everything can be managed somewhat better,” said Blitz.
MOMPA will obtain its data from its strategic partners, which are currently: People for Change Malta Foundation, Nairbobi-based Regional Mixed Migration Secretariat, and one “correspondent” in Greece. Blitz said he is hopeful of a partnership with Borderline Sicily in the near future.
Other data will be fed into the project from Malta-based private search and rescue (SAR) enterprise, Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS). MOMPA, a joint project between Middlesex and Kingston universities, has obtained EU Erasmus+ funding for some of its film and journalism students to work with MOAS and a Malta-based news website, Migrant Report, to obtain direct information about migrants and rescues. This data will be published on a weekly basis.
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Blitz said, “One issue is that the flows may switch – we see more people coming from Greece right now, whereas before they had been fleeing into Libya and departing from there,” he pointed out.
From a SAR perspective, Blitz said, “This data about flows and directions of flows, anticipating where flows may be coming from means that you can move rescue efforts and hopefully you can rescue people closer to the coast.”
Also beneficial will be country of origin data collected before people get into boats.
Blitz said with this information, “You can get a better sense of what sort of protection they should be afforded – whether we are dealing with asylum seekers from Eritrea or Syria, or Bangladeshi workers who are fleeing Libya because it is unsafe but who are basically just trying to get out but do have a home to go to.”
The data should allow states to more quickly work out how to receive people, whether that be relocation or resettlement, said Blitz, citing the US resettlement programme that actively works with the UNHCR.
Blitz confirmed that pressure on commercial ships had reduced recently with support from EU states as well as NGO search and rescue assets.
“But we don’t know how long that is going to last. We don’t really know how long the governments are going to back it,” he said.
MOMPA’s data and analysis will be used to inform European-wide migration policy, which has multiple approaches “all in one basket”, including SAR, asylum and protection, returning people, stopping smugglers, and curtailing migration, Blitz pointed out.
Migrant Report led by executive editor Mark Micallef (current editor of The Times of Malta) is expected to go live later this week.