International Studies student Raymond Messier on his summer of international search and rescue ambassadorship
This summer, International Studies student Raymond Messier gained valuable search and rescue experience with the help of a Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences Student Travel Award. Messier travelled through Arctic waters with Norwegian Search and Rescue and also to the front lines of human refugee migration in the Aegean Sea, with an NGO rescue vessel based on the Greek island of Lesvos this past summer. He recently wrote about and reflected on his experiences.
This past summer, I had the unique and unforgettable opportunity to partner with the Norwegian Sea Rescue Society, Redningsselskapet to help inform my studies on Arctic diplomacy and regional challenges specific to my research on Arctic Search and Rescue Cooperation.
Traveling between Rescue Stations throughout the Northern Norwegian Arctic by rescue vessel, I was able to visit the some of the most astounding places I could ever imagine.
This six week ambassadorship between my home organization - the Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue - and the Redningsselskapet was the first bilateral arrangement as such in our collective histories and has brought our two professional organizations closer in the process.
Following this portion of my expedition, I partnered as a private citizen to assist the NGO Search and Rescue Vessel 'Mo Chara' ('My friend' in Gaelic) for two months as the Helmsman of this 7.5 Meter Fast Rescue Craft. On call 24/7 based on the Greek Island of Lesvos, I witnessed people crossing from Turkish to Greek/EU territory in underpowered, overloaded and poorly constructed vessels seeking the opportunity to present themselves for asylum.
While much of the popular media attention has left Lesvos, the consequences of the EU deterrence policy are still being felt by thousands waiting in unacceptable prison style conditions for crimes they did not commit. This illegal detention and maltreatment of asylum seekers is in contravention of the statutes and spirit of Article 14(1) of the UN Declaration of Human Rights protecting the right to claim asylum for all and and the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees stipulation that ‘refugees should not be penalized for their illegal entry or stay’.
With children as young as a week old, pregnant and nursing mothers, weak and elderly grandparents in this extreme position of vulnerability, this period of my travels informed many of my positions regarding the global governance of human migration as well as the inadequacy of our collective response.