• Who is Mediterranea and how did it start?
Mediterranea was founded by many different people who couldn’t stand watching thousands of other people die in general indifference. It is the need for justice and doing something good. It was founded with the courage of thinking that everyone is able to do it. And maybe it is normal that this desire has been shared at first by people socially active, people who stand up for the rights, researchers who have dedicated their life to studying society without demagogism or instrumentalization. All those people, together, have decided to create a network, to realize an idea which is great and small at the same time: we can and we must continue to wish and act to put the respect of human beings above everything else. So they chose to do it: by more and more frequent phone calls and meetings all participants have given their share to the creation of this operation, and many individual persons from culture and politics have contributed their part and made this first step possible. Now it is everyone’s turn to let Mediterranea grow: by donations but mainly by participation in this project which will always be open to everyone.
• Why did you buy a ship?
After all NGO ships have been blocked from the Mediterranean, one out of six people that flee from Libya dies in silence. Nobody will witness and bring help to those in danger. It is not acceptable that such an enormous tragedy is happening without any rescue. Mediterranea will now be there for monitoring, call for rescue and help if necessary. In order to do this, to be in the central Mediterranean, there is no alternative to buying a ship and sail.
• What are you doing in the central Mediterranean?
Our mission is monitoring. We will be on the sea to witness and report what is happening, in respect of international laws and those of the sea, including, whenever necessary, to save human life.
• Is Mediterranea an NGO?
Mediterranea is a platform of different initiatives of the civil society coming to the central Mediterranean after the NGOs have been forced to leave in consequence of being criminalized by political rhetoric, even though no inquiry has ever come to any conviction. It is not a non governmental organization, but a non governmental action designed by organization of different nature and individuals. That’s why Mediterranea is open to all voices – religious, secular, cultural and social – and to all the contributions of whoever wants to be part of it and support it. The work of the promoting core is just a first step. Many meetings with new supporters are underway and will be intensified during the next weeks. Mediterranea is a ship for everyone.
• Who finances Mediterranea?
Mediterranea believes in the importance of acting and acting together. This is why we are counting on grassroots participation, and we are sure to retrieve the necessary resources for this first mission thanks to the help of many people, associations and groups finding it unacceptable that hundreds of humans die near the italian coast. Everyone can give his part in this crowdfunding campaign by visiting www.mediterranearescue.org. All the promoters and supporters are working in their local areas starting solidarity and support initiatives as also fundraisers open to all citizens. This project has been started also thanks to the partnership with Banca Etica, giving the necessary loan for this operation, supervising the fundraising and tutoring all economical aspects of it.
• How do you plan to receive all the people you’ll save?
International laws do not only prescribe to intervene in case of a shipwreck situation or dangerous situations on sea, but also that the rescued people will be brought to a safe harbour. The people, once brought to the italian coast, will be treated as the Italian and European law prescribes.
• What is a safe harbour?
A safe harbour is a country which respects international laws, human rights and the dignity of the people it welcomes, including the possibility to request asylum. Libya for example doesn’t fulfill those standards.
• Why are shipwrecks so common in the Mediterranean sea?
The structural reason is the closure of legal entrance ways for refugees, and because of that the constraint to stop, even if they don’t want to, in transit countries and to arrive to Libya. From there, crossing the Mediterranean is obligatory. Once the crossing has been paid, people are put on boats (very often with guns pointed to their heads) which are in a very bad shape and will mostly sink. This happened before the NGOs where in the Mediterranean sea and continues to happen after they are gone. For sure, not having any humanitarian or government ship in the area, has caused the number of shipwrecks to rise, but the main cause are the conditions in Libya and the closure of any other possibility of legal entrance. Lasty, the role given to the so-called Libyan Coastguard by Italy means that people who start from the Libyan coast are getting intercepted by those Libyans and brought back into torture and violence, and will be put back again on the boats even for 2-3 times. This has multiplied not only the suffering and abuse, but also the possibility to die in a shipwreck. Nowadays one in six persons who go on a boat dies. Imagine what that means for those who make this decision to start and think if it is morally acceptable to put the people in the condition of having to make this choice.
• Why don’t we help them at their home?
Who are we talking about? “Them” is made up of a bunch of conditions and different origins, and every answer we give, even this one, is reductive and simplifying of a much more complex reality. If we are referring to who is fleeing from the bombs or the cruel violence of different wars, the only thing we can do for now is to offer a safe place where they can find shelter, other than stopping to deliver arms to those countries. If we talk generally about who is leaving in order to build a better future, in more democratic and free countries, helping them at their homes should imply to stop supporting repressive governments, which neither Italy nor Europe has done yet, stop exporting assets from countries where they are extracted, but which don’t see any economic return from our speculations, stop practicing non-respectful tourism, rewrite the economic contracts between both shores of the Mediterranean sea and which are always in favor of the already rich people. Humanitarian missions are important during emergencies, but to overcome those we need serious measures which are not dictated by markets or the relationship between different world leaders, who often don’t care about their own population. Generally speaking we should also ask the UK why it doesn’t help all the migranting Italians (often young and very well educated, just as many young people from Asia and Africa, which try to reach Europe) who now live in London or other English cities.
• Why must Italy care about receiving the migrants?
Italy, with its politics of closing the borders, in accordance with European politics, has left the Mediterranean sea as the last possible route. This has left Italy, together with Malta and Greece, to be the first country of entrance into the European Union. If legal ways of entrance into Europe would exist, migration would be redistributed. This is the only battle to fight for in Europe, but Italy should start by setting a good example.
• Is Mediterranea acting legally or illegally?
Everything done by Mediterranea is completely legal. We respect italian and international laws, and those of the sea: Mediterranea is civil obedience.
• What do you think about European policies on immigration?
In Europe, on different levels and for many years now, migration has been chosen as an instrument of political propaganda. Irrational migratory policies are the result of this, not efficient even by the goals they declared to want to reach, other than being inhumane and dangerous for the democratic order of European nations. The progressive and europeist countries have also embraced the way of exploiting for politics, thinking that they could stop the racist drift and delegitimization of human rights resulting from this. Now they are in front of a situation in which the war on migration is common ground for different neofascist and neonazi forces in Europe, but also for the axis of those nations whose governments are strongly against Europe, and for identitarian nationalism, and those who share xenophobia and nostalgy for authoritarian regimes that we hoped would never come back. European policy on migration has never tried to manage a phenomenon which actually exists. It has only been a showcase for political struggle in order to get votes. That is the reason it hasn’t worked.
• Where do the migrants come from?
The Mediterranean sea is the last possible way to get to Europe, and it is becoming more dangerous. The people which are trying this route are coming from different countries of origin: ranging from people coming from the horn of Africa afflicted by repressive regimes and civil wars, to those from Sub-Saharan Africa, from the Maghreb area which is officially peaceful but actually won’t guarantee basic human rights and freedom (just think about the terrible killing of Giulio Regeni in egypt). Keep in mind that poverty comes along with the lack of basic democratic protection. And in addition to those african migrants those few refugees who still manage to flee from the wars in the middle east and the political instabilities in many asian states.
• Where do the migrants go?
Whoever leaves Libya usually just wants to go as far as possible from that hell, where people are tortured, raped, abused and enslaved every day. Libya has become an openair concentration camp because of the closure of all legal ways of entrance into Europe, and so people must put their fate into the hands of criminal people traffickers, losing control of their way, and knowing that once you come to Libya there is no way back.People leaving from nations like Tunisia or Egypt usually dream of living in a democratic nation where they can build a free and happy future. Very often the people who are leaving want to reach their relatives that are already in Europe and which could host them and help them with the first difficulties upon arrival. The laws of the European Union and the individual nations unfortunately do not allow this, and oppose to a natural redistribution of the people arriving to Europe.
• Do we talk about an “invasion”?
The fear of invasion is the product of manipulation and distorting of reality, because migration to Europe and Italy has not increased, but decreased in the last ten years: in 2006 550.000 people have entered legally, 3 times more than those who arrived in 2016 by the sea. Nobody has made profit of this, and nobody was calling for an invasion. But the closure of every legal way of entrance has left the Mediterranean as the only possible route, creating large profits for the mafia of human traffickers. In this way an emergency has been constructed, letting the European people forget who are really responsible for the economic crisis, the inequality and insecurity of our lives: for sure not the people that are migrating, and have always brought mainly resources and benefits. We are going back to legitimizing racism, the law of the strongest over guaranteeing universal rights, hate as social glue, risking to go back to the worst decades of the recent European history, those of terror and extermination. Italy, and in general Europe have received a very small part of the migrants who urge to leave their countries at the moment, 68,5 million in the world, of which 3.5 million have fled to Turkey, 992.000 to Lebanon, 662.000 to Jordan (those two countries are much smaller and poorer than our country). Since the agreement between Italy and the Libyan government of Al Serraj has been made, 80% less people have arrived. We must never use this data as a victory, as the people who do not arrive anymore are being detained in governmental and informal prisons in Libya, where people and especially women and children are tortured, raped and abused every day, or they have drowned. With this decrease in arrivals, any political policy calling for an urgent need to intervene in migratory matters is completely senseless, now more than ever.