Practices of rescue and assistance based on humanitarian concerns for life have increasingly come to shape both state and non-state action that responds to the mobility of people on the move at the borders of Europe. These processes of rescue are presented as counter to processes of border control concerned with preventing and policing migratory flows. Presented and articulated as an alternative response to the increasingly restrictive and militarised practices that make-up ‘Fortress Europe’, this humanitarian intervention concerned with saving lives both masks the violence of the border that renders people vulnerable in the first instance and masks the intimate relationship practices of rescue have with processes of capture more traditionally associated with border policing. The ascendancy of rescue as the primary response to irregular mobility also works to police the boundaries of what is considered ethical politics and the possible responses that result. Rescue does this through framing such events as unforeseen tragedies, erasing the structures of the violent border in the process and rendering counter-narratives mute.