Mediterranea was founded by all sorts of people who could no longer stand by indifferent while other people like them were dying in their thousands. It was born from a need for justice and doing something worthwhile. It was born from the courage of knowing that they too can do it. It was born from a desire. Understandably, perhaps, this desire was felt first of all by the socially active, by people involved in the struggle for rights and by experts dedicating their lives to the study of all forms of demagoguery and instrumentalisation in society. All these people decided to create a network to give concrete form to a simple yet fundamental idea: that respect for human life comes before all else. And they simply started doing this, in phone calls and ever more frequent meetings and gatherings. All the components of this core of initial supporters played their part in setting up the operation, with many cultural and political figures responding by acting and moving with great generosity to make this first objective achievable. Now it’s up to everyone to make Mediterranea grow, not only with donations but also, and above all, by joining a project that is and will always be open to all.
After the banishment of NGO ships from the Mediterranean, one in every six people who set out to sea fleeing Libya died. Without witnesses, bringing help to those whose lives are in danger becomes next to impossible. Mediterranea is now there to monitor, to call for rescue and to help where necessary. Being present in the central Mediterranean required a ship and hence we purchased one and set sail.
We are a monitoring mission. We are at sea to witness and condemn what is happening. Respecting international law and the laws of the sea, we save lives where necessary.
Mediterranea is an organisation for Social Promotion (APS) that was set up to witness and denounce what is happening in the central Mediterranean. After NGOs were criminalised, we chose to become a Non-Governmental Action. As such, Mediterranea is open to all voices - secular, religious, cultural and social - and to all contributions from those who wish to support it: Mediterranea is a ship for all.
Mediterranea believes in the importance of taking action and doing it together. That is why we rely on participation from below where thanks to the help of many people, organisations and groups who find it unacceptable that hundreds of people die every month near the Italian coasts, we can continue our mission. Through crowdfunding, everyone is able to donate according to their means. Our project was initially funded thanks to the valuable contribution from Banca Etica, which granted a loan to meet all our operational needs, supervise fundraising activities and offer economic advice and mentoring.
International law prescribes that in the event of shipwreck situations or in dangerous conditions at sea, action must be taken to bring help quickly. It also stipulates that the men and women being helped be taken to safe ports. Once shipwrecked persons reach the Italian or other European coastline, they are received in accordance with Italian and EU law.
To be known as a “place of safety”, a port must be in a country that respects international conventions and human rights, and therefore guarantees the dignity and rights of the people it receives, including access to the possibility of seeking asylum. Libya or Tunisia, to make just one example, do not meet any of these requirements.
Legal entry into Europe is made impossible for many people who want to leave their countries. They are then forced to pass through Lybia, a deeply dangerous undertaking where they are imprisoned and daily life is perilous. From there, the Mediterranean sea becomes the only option. They pay extortionist prices for a passage on an unsafe boat, and their lives are put at risk. Forbidding rescue ships from patrolling the sea contributes to a rise in the number of shipwrecks and increasing unnecessary deaths. In addition, many people are pushed back by the so-called Lybian coast guard (sponsored and paid for by Italy) to the torturous conditions of the Lybain camps. This can happen several times over to the same person! Today, 1 in 6 people who leave Lybia on a migrant boat die at sea.
When we say 'them', we are actually talking about a myriad of different peoples and backgrounds, so any answer to this question is bound to be reductive. Reality is much more complex. If we refer to people who are currently trying to flee violence and war, the only ethical response is to offer them a safe place of refuge. In addition, we must continue to advocate the immediate cessation of supplying arms. If we are talking more generally about people who are leaving their country in search of a better future, of democracy and freedom, then helping “them” in “their” homes would mean ending any support to repressive regimes - from extraction of resources to ‘soft exploitation’ (such as tourism that is not supportive and respectful of local economies). Current economic agreements are detrimental to the poorest on either side of the Mediterranean. Helping “them” in “their” home would actually require a rewriting of these conditions. Humanitarian interventions are important and necessary during an emergency, but we must also envisage measures that go beyond self-interest and the market economy. That said, we should also ask England or Germany or Spain why they do not “help in their home countries” all of the many Italians or Europeans now living in London or elsewhere, who, in many cases, are as prepared and as young as the African trying to reach Europe.
Italy, in accordance with the EU, implemented a closed-borders policy that has made the Mediterranean the only viable route. Because of its geographical position, this has made Italy, together with Malta and Greece, one of the first countries of entry. If there were legal entry channels into Europe, migration would be naturally redistributed. This is one of the reasons why fighting for legal entry is so important, especially in Italy.
Yes! Everything Mediterranea does is completely legal. It respects and will always respect Italian, international, and maritime laws: Mediterranea is an action of civil obedience.
For many years now throughout Europe, the choice has been made to turn the topic of migration into a political tool. The consequences are irrational migration policies that are ineffective, as well as being unjust, increasingly inhuman and dangerous for European democracy. The so-called progressive and pro-European countries have also chosen the path of political instrumentalisation, thinking that they could govern the racist backlash and the delegitimisation of law and human rights provoked by these policies. Today they find themselves faced with a situation in which the war on migration has become the dog whistle for European neo-fascist and neo-Nazi forces. The EU states whose governments are strongly nationalistic and oriented towards anti-European sovereignty are xenophobic. They show a nostalgia for authoritarian regimes that we hoped would never return. European migration policies have never really tried to solve the immigration issue rationally, but they have been used to gain consensus.
The Mediterranean is now the last remaining route to Europe, albeit an increasingly dangerous one. People arrive from many different places. The countries in the Horn of Africa, plagued by repressive regimes, insecurity and civil wars, the sub-Sahara, the Maghreb (wrongly considered as a peaceful area). With respect to Egypt, we need only think of the terrible murder of Giulio Regeni… Great poverty is often accompanied by a lack of effective democratic protection, and we must not forget about people who are still fleeing the wars in the Middle East, nor the political and environmental insecurity that characterise so many Asian states.
Those who leave Libya very often simply try to get as far away as possible from that hellhole where every day is punctuated by torture, rape, violence and enslavement. If Libya has become a huge open-air concentration camp it is because of the closure of all legal channels of entry. When you leave the country you are always forced to put yourself in the hands of traffickers, very often losing control over your migration route, and once in Libya it is impossible to go back. People who leave from countries like Tunisia or Egypt usually pursue the dream of living in a democratic state where they can build a better life. People who leave their country often wish to join their relatives who are already in Europe and who could host them and help them cope with the difficulties of being in a new continent. The laws of the European Union and its constituent nations, however, make this very hard to do, hindering a more balanced geographical redistribution of people arriving in Europe.
'Invasion' anxiety is the product of a wilful misrepresentation of the facts: migration to Europe and Italy has not increased, but decreased in the last ten years. Closing every legal channel of entry has made the Mediterranean the only viable route, making the human traffickers rich. The idea of an emergency has really been invented to make the European population forget who is really responsible for the economic crisis, the inequalities, the precariousness of our lives. The people who migrate have always brought resources and benefits to their new country. Racism has again, to some extent, become mainstream thinking, risking taking us back to the worst decades of recent European history.