On the Move with Begüm Başdaş (6): with Hannah Wallace Bowman on lifesaving operations at Mediterranean

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Copyright: MSF/Hannah Wallace Bowman

This week, Begüm Başdaş’s guest was Hannah Wallace Bowman, Field Communications Manager on board Sea-Watch 4, as part of the MSF (Medecins Sans Frontieres) search and rescue mission to the Central Mediterranean. Bowman says “If EU states are not willing to step up with search and rescue capacity, they have to let us save lives. It’s time to stop the dying in the Mediterranean.”

For Bowman, how we respond to the issue of migration, and the way we address the desperate reality facing those trying to reach Europe by sea, is representative of the most urgent and existential challenges we face as a species. She claims there is no more relevant place to be than at sea in solidarity with people in distress.Bowman was on board with the search and rescue ship Ocean Viking for more than a year and also with Sea-Watch 4 until it was impounded in September 2020. She explains in detail how the search and rescue operations work in the Mediterranean to save the lives of people trying to cross over to Europe from Libya. Bowman talked about the daily life on board and shared narratives of refugees they helped to bring onto the ship. 

Bowman said “The point of them stepping on to the ship is an incredibly emotional experience. It’s taking that last bit of adrenalin and that last little bit of energy, that last push, to get them up the ladder and you see people, they just go down. They are praying, crying, laughing and then just complete exhaustion.” On the EU’s consistent harassment and criminalization of SAR ships to prevent them from saving lives, Bowman said “it is all wrapped up in this idea that this is about safety, this is about health. No, it is not about any of those things. This is politically motivated, so let’s just be frank about that.” 

Hannah Wallace Bowman is currently Field Communications Manager on board Sea-Watch 4, as part of the MSF search and rescue mission to the Central Mediterranean where she has been for the past year and half. Prior to this, she was working on the frontline of providing a humanitarian response to those arriving to the island of Lesvos across the Aegean. 

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