News (EN)

Abolish Frontex, end the EU border regime

To: EU member states governments, the European Commission, European Council, Council of the EU, European Parliament and the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex)

 

Over 740 people have died so far this year trying to cross the Mediterranean, looking for a place of safety. The EU’s border regime forced them to take dangerous migration routes, often on unseaworthy vessels; it enlisted neighbouring countries to stop them on their way; met them with violence and pushbacks; or refused to rescue them – abandoning them to drown at sea.

These are lives lost because of the European Union’s obsession with reinforcing borders instead of protecting people. At what cost? The policies of Fortress Europe have killed over 40,555 people since 1993. Left to die in the Mediterranean, the Atlantic and the desert, shot at borders, died by suicide at detention centres, tortured and killed after being deported — The EU has blood on its hands.

At the centre of this violence lies the European Border and Coast Guard Agency Frontex – the EU’s border police force. For its 15 years of existence, Frontex has been both avid promoter and key enforcer of Europe’s violent policies against people on the move. Often hiding away from public scrutiny, over the past months a series of investigations by journalists and human rights groups have put Frontex in the spotlight. Extensive evidence has exposed how the EU’s border force is repeatedly involved in illegal pushbacks and human rights violations.

These revelations are not unfortunate coincidences, misunderstandings or isolated incidents. They are the tip of the iceberg, and the inherent result of the EU’s militarised border regime. Every death at the border and instance of violence is a policy of the EU’s own making – by choice and by design.

Frontex has now secured a €5.6 billion budget until 2027 and, by then, will have its own army of 10,000 armed border guards; it will also have more powers than ever in coordinating EU-wide deportations. Meanwhile, Europe has now built over 1,000 kilometres of border walls and fences. The EU’s militarised borders are sustained by intense and invasive surveillance and connected by databases full of personal – biometric – information. To stop people from even reaching European soil, third countries are put under heavy pressure to act as outpost border guards.

These policies are built on a narrative that frames migration as a security problem, depicting desperate people on the move as a threat. They’ve been designed in close collaboration with the military and security industry, who is making billions of euros in profits as a result.

These policies don’t protect lives. They put them in danger. They fuel the rise of the far right across Europe, they reinforce racism, and build on centuries of colonialism, oppression and exploitation.

At the same time, the European Union keeps contributing to the root causes of migration —  from arms exports to the extraction of resources and its responsibility for the climate crisis.

Fortress Europe fills us with shame, suppresses rights and prevents justice. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Today, activists and organizations from in- and outside the EU are coming together with a single demand: Abolish Frontex and the system it spearheads.

We don’t want to see more lives lost at sea or in the desert; lives wasted in detention or in inhumane refugee camps. We oppose a world increasingly divided by fortified borders to protect the wealth of the rich from the desperation and righteous anger of the poor and oppressed.

We believe in freedom of movement for all; in providing support and shelter for people on the move, and in working towards a world where people are no longer forced to flee their homes and can live where they choose to.

In this context, Frontex cannot be reformed. It must be abolished. As the signatories of this letter, we pledge our commitment to this goal. There are no excuses, investigations or halfhearted reform procedures that should ever justify Frontex’ existence.

We demand that the structures and policies that cause violence and death be dismantled. Instead, we must build a system that guarantees justice and safety for all. We demand that you abolish Frontex and end the EU border regime it represents.

For further information:
abolishfrontex.org

facebook.com/Abolish-Frontex-107627841544877

twitter.com/abolishfrontex

News (EN)

Meeting with Minister Lamorgese: “Calling for concrete actions to safeguard human life at sea”

This afternoon the organisations involved in rescue operations in the central Mediterranean met the Italian Minister of the Interior, Luciana Lamorgese, for a discussion on search and rescue activities.

The representatives of Emergency, Médecins Sans Frontières, MEDITERRANEA Saving Humans, Open Arms, ResQ-People saving People, Sea-Watch and SOS MEDITERRANEE, noted the openness to dialogue offered by the Minister, reiterating at the same time how rescue at sea can never be negotiable.

“Discussions on migration policies cannot become an impediment to rescue at sea, which is a legal and a moral obligation,” said the organisations’ representatives. While it is true that the so-called “first port states” such as Italy, must be able to count on the solidarity of other EU members, the emergency at sea does not stop and indeed becomes more deadly every day. The NGOs ask Italy and Europe to set up an effective search and rescue system whose primary purpose is to safeguard human life in the Mediterranean.

The organisations also called for an end to the hostile climate for civil rescue. “We have asked the Minister to recognise the role of humanitarian organisations, which are affected by criminalisation, by releasing our ships that are still under detention,” said the organisations’ representatives.

Agreements with Libya were also at the centre of the talks. “Blocking departures, to the detriment of the protection of human rights and continued deaths at sea, can never be the solution,” say the NGOs. “This form of support and funding must be stopped as soon as possible. Medium- to long-term solutions must be found to build safe channels of regular access to Europe. But, in the meantime, we cannot continue to let people die at sea or be returned to a country where they are forced to suffer abuses of all kinds.”

During the meeting, the NGOs urged Minister Lamorgese to take on a role of effective coordination with the other ministries involved, in particular with the Ministry of Sustainable Infrastructures and Mobility, regarding administrative detentions, and with the Ministry of Health for Covid protocols and quarantine management.

 

News (EN)

“Seafarers’ Award” 2021: the crews of MARE JONIO and MAERSK ETIENNE awarded in Copenhagen

The Official motivation for awarding the crews of MARE JONIO and Maersk ETIENNE:

The tanker Maersk Etienne responded to a request to help twenty-seven people in distress in the Mediterranean 4 August 2020. By responding and aiding the shipwrecked people, the captain and crew of Maersk Etienne were only carrying out their duty under international law. However, what should have been a relatively simple question of taking the persons to shore, turned into thirty-eight days of political bargaining and desperation, as no nation would allow the them to disembark. The captain and his crew did their best to care for the people on board, but the situation was untenable, with three people jumping overboard in an attempt to swim to shore. The crew managed to get them onboard again quickly, but the incident highlighted the desperate situation.

After thirty-eight days, Maersk Etienne called for medical help and only the NGO-ship Mare Jonio responded. The people were transferred to Mare Jonio whose medical staff had examined the physical and mental health of the recued persons. Mare Jonio is owned and operated by the NGO Mediterranea Saving Humans.

In accordance with the spirit and purpose of Søfartsprisen, the captains of Maersk Etienne and Mare Jonio have been nominated because they displayed inordinate courage and immense humanitarian care in a desperate situation. Both captains and their crews have, in each of their actions, demonstrated the strong spirit of seafarers who never turn their back on people in distress at sea. In addition, the 38 days of political stand-off, with no view to an immediate solution, highlighted the unsustainable situation in the Mediterranean, where safe and prompt disembarkation is not guaranteed. Mediterranean Saving Humans stepped up and provided medical examination, transfer, and, finally, disembarkation. In doing so, the NGO did what neither the Danish flag state, nor the EU, or any other stakeholder involved were able to do despite tremendous diplomatic efforts.

Here the statement of the Danish Shipping Association:
https://www.danishshipping.dk/en/press/news/maritime-prize-awarded-at-danish-shippings-annual-event/

The speech of the Head of Mission of Mediterranea Saving Humans, Giuseppe Caccia

https://mediterranearescue.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/Giuseppe_Caccia.pdf

27-05-2021

News (EN)

The ship Mare Jonio at the shipyard. Mediterranea will return on mission

THE SHIP MARE JONIO AT THE SHIPYARD. MEDITERRANEA WILL RETURN ON MISSION: “NECESSARY PRESENCE. OUR GOAL? WE’LL BE AT SEA BY JUNE”

 

The MARE JONIO – the only civil rescue ship flying the Italian flag and managed by the Italian civil society platform Mediterranea Saving Humans APS – has entered the shipyard in Venice for important maintenance works that, within a few weeks, will enable her to be ready to sail again.

In the central Mediterranean Sea, there have been reports of at least three more shipwrecks, with dozens of victims and missing persons, after the massacre of April 21. Meanwhile, other non-governmental vessels have been subjected to arbitrary administrative detentions. In the face of the inaction from European states that are not intervening, as they should, with a military search and rescue mission, and in the face of the cry for help of women, men and children fleeing the horrors of the Libyan camps, our presence is also necessary.

We are preparing to return to sea in spite of the very heavy attack against us. The insubstantial accusations levelled against our crew and our owners by the Ragusa Public Prosecutor’s Office have led to the freezing of the project for a new, larger rescue vessel. We have therefore decided to tackle the work necessary to resume missions with the Mare Jonio. Our aim is to be ready to set sail by June.

Support us!

News (EN)

95 people captured at sea and pushed back to Libya. The case from May 2, 2021

 

95 people returned to torture and abuse

How Italy ordered Merchant Vessels to assist in an illegal pullback to Libya

A joint statement by Alarm Phone and Mediterranea Saving Humans

Yesterday, on 2 May 2021, at 05:32h CEST, a group of 95 people on a wooden boat called Alarm Phone. Trying to escape from Libya, they were in urgent distress in international waters, drifting a few nautical miles south of the Maltese Search and Rescue zone (34°14, E12°11 at 05:32h). Their engine was not working anymore and the weather was worsening. The Italian authorities, after the so-called Libyan coastguard had requested their assistance, ordered two merchant vessels, the VOS APHRODITE and the OLYMPIYSKY PROSPECT, to approach the boat in distress and remain on standby, waiting for the arrival of the so-called Libyan coastguard. When the people in distress realised they were going to be returned to Libya, rather than rescued to Italy, the situation on board deteriorated, resulting with several people falling or jumping into the water to prevent capture. Merchant vessels were then asked to rescue the people and to hand them over to the so-called Libyan coastguard, who forcibly returned them to Libya.

While much is known about this violent pullback, many questions remain open: What happened between the arrival of the Merchant Vessels and the arrival of the Libyan authorities? Why did the Merchant Vessels, sent on scene by the Italian coastguard, refuse to rescue a wooden boat that could have capsized at any moment? What happened when the so-called Libyan coastguard arrived on scene? Why did the Merchant Vessels hand the rescued over to the Libyan authorities? Have all the people in distress survived or were there any casualties? Authorities refuse to provide answers to any of these questions. They seek to hide everything that happens in the Central Mediterranean, covering up their crimes at sea.

The case of the 95 people, captured and returned from international waters to Libya after continuously requesting help from European authorities, is a clear example of the complex system of human rights violations of the EU Member States (Italy and Malta) and the EU border agency Frontex. These actors are cooperating and de facto coordinating the activities of the Libyan authorities, who carry out undeclared and illegal border police operations rather than search and rescue activities at sea.

These events show the coordinated and systematic violence of existing Search and Rescue regulations and infrastructures. They show again that States are only protecting borders and refusing to protect people’s lives, by refusing to perform timely rescue and returning people to places where their lives are threatened.

Therefore, it is time for the creation of a Search and Rescue (SAR) coordination centre that intends to prevent illegal pushbacks and death at sea instead of facilitating them. This coordination centre should be organised by civil society: a Civil Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (or CMRCC), capable and willing to collect distress calls, to coordinate search and rescue operations to a Place Of Safety (POS), and to work towards the abolition of the EU border regime and its racist violence.

This report provides a detailed timeline of how the events unfolded on 2 May 2021 before showing how this distress case highlights a system of human rights violation in the Central Mediterranean. Crucial elements of this violent system are: the attribution of the SAR zone to Libya, intentional delays in rescue, forms of non-assistance at sea, and routine violations of the Geneva Convention.

 

TIMELINE

Yesterday, on 2 May 2021, at 05:32h CEST, a group of 95 people on a wooden boat called Alarm Phone. Trying to escape from Libya, they were in urgent distress in international waters, drifting just six nautical miles South of the Maltese Search and Rescue zone (34°14, E12°11 at 05:32h). Their engine was not working anymore and the weather was worsening.

On the phone, the people in distress said: “We’re nearly 100 people, we are going to die if you don’t help us. Please! The engine stopped. Can you imagine if you’ve children & you feel they are going to die in the sea. It’s so hard. There are big waves and the boat is too small. We are on a small boat. We will die if you don’t help us. Please send someone for us, there is a lot of water coming into the boat

Watch the video on YouTube: http://https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uh56KIbxsPM

Credit: PiazzaPulita

Alarm Phone immediately alerted all authorities (at 06:12h). Subsequently Alarm Phone emailed the Shipping Company of Merchant Vessel Olympiski Prospect, informing them of their duty to rescue (06:37h), as it was close to the boat in distress. However, during a later phone call, they refused to accept their obligation to render assistance. In the meanwhile, several friends and relatives of the people in distress got in touch with Alarm Phone via Social Media and asked for the fate of the people on board.

At 9.17h, Mediterranea Saving Humans asked Italian MPs to request Italian authorities to release information on the distress situation and to demand immediate rescue.

At 10.12h, the people in distress told Alarm Phone that an airplane was flying above them. Alarm Phone could confirm that it was Frontex’s Osprey 1 which was visibly circling above the boat. According to the people in distress, it remained on scene for about one hour before taking off.

Image: Frontex’s Osprey Track

 

At 11:30, when contacting Italian authorities, Alarm Phone was told to contact the Libyan authorities instead. When contacting the Libyan authorities, however, Alarm Phone was told that they could speak only Arabic, so no communication was possible at the time.

At 13.49, a source within the Italian Ministry of Defense responded to Italian MPs, explaining that they were coordinating an intervention with the so-called Libyan coastguard, and that Libyan authorities were responsible for the distress case. Soon after, at 14.46h, the Italian Ministry of Defense communicated that two merchant vessels had been alerted.

According to a press release by the Italian Coastguard (1), published at 15.37, the so-called Libyan coastguard had requested operational support as, due to bad weather, they were unable to intervene. The Italian coastguard then alerted two merchant vessels in the vicinity: on vesselfinder Alarm Phone could identify the VOS Aphrodite (Merchant Vessel, Flag Gibraltar); Olympiysky Prospect (Tanker, Russian Flag), which, according to the people on board, approached the boat in distress but did not provide any assistance.

Image: Vos Aphrodite track

Image: Olympiysky Prospect track

 

At 14:41h, Alarm Phone sent an email to all authorities and the Merchant Vessels on scene, informing them that the people in distress could see two vessels. Soon after, at 14:55h, the so-called Libyan coastguard responded to the email announcing they were “in charge of the operation with the collaboration of MRCC Rome”.

Image: Email by the so-called Libyan coastguard to Alarm Phone

 

The people in distress were panicking on the phone, asking Alarm Phone why the Merchant Vessels were sent and if they were only sent to watch them die. Water kept coming into the boat, and the people on the lower deck were moving to the upper deck, destabilizing the boat further. When the people in distress realised that the Merchant Vessels were just waiting for the Libyan authorities to arrive and to return them to Libya, the situation on board turned even more critical, with people panicking and threatening to jump into the sea and to swim towards the Merchant Vessels. On the phone, they said:

“We prefer to die, than to be taken back to the Libyan hell – we risked our lives to escape, we have been at sea for so many days, we need to go to Italy now.”

The situation on board indeed quickly deteriorated, resulting in several people falling or jumping into the water to prevent capture. Merchant vessels were then asked to rescue the people but to then hand them over to the so-called Libyan coastguard upon their arrival.

At 17.15h, Italian MPs communicated to Italian authorities that the situation on board was extremely critical, that the arrival of Libyan authorities at the scene of distress might endanger the people even further, and that the people on board should have the right to apply for asylum in Europe. The MPs argued that not only the Libyan authorities would violate the Geneva Convention but also all those who monitor and witness this human right violation without intervening.

At 20.04h, the Italian Ministry of Interior informed MPs that the so-called Libyan coastguard was on scene, and that, since the so-called Libyan coastguard was responsible for the operation, Italy could not intervene. Sea-Watch4 then overheard communication on VHF suggesting that the VOS APHRODITE was cooperating with the Libyan authorities in organising an illegal pull-back to Libya.

Hours later, on 3 May 2021, the UNHCR confirmed that 95 people had been returned to Libya by the so-called Libyan coastguard.

Systematic Human Rights Violations off Libya’s Shore

The illegal pullback to Libya on 2 May clearly shows how EU Member States (Italy and Malta) and the EU border agency Frontex cooperate and de facto coordinate human right violations by Libyan authorities. This pull-back system is premised on several interrelated violations:

1) The attribution of the SAR zone to Libya is in open violation of the 1979 Hamburg Convention and the IOM Guidelines on SAR zones. In fact, Libya has neither the means nor the personnel able to manage the largest SAR zone in the Mediterranean. In particular, it cannot provide shipwrecked people with a PoS (Place of Safety), a fundamental characteristic of rescue operations at sea. Any state that is a signatory to the Hamburg Convention cooperates with or coordinates the activities of Libyan assets at sea is in open violation of the Hamburg Convention, unless it ensures that people are taken to a PoS after they have been recovered at sea.

2) Italian and European authorities, together with Frontex, delay rescue. In the case of the 95 people in distress, Italy, despite having promptly received notice of the case and despite having precise information on the dangerous situation for the persons at sea, and in light of Libyan communication on the “immediate impossibility of intervening due to adverse weather and sea conditions”, decided not to send rescue. Instead, the Italian MRCC ordered Merchant Vessels to “wait for the Libyans”.

3) The current case also violates the Geneva Convention (art. 33). Whilst those who use immigration control legislation in opposition to international conventions on human rights and the obligation to rescue would define the people in distress as “migrants in transit”, the 95 people adrift at sea were people fleeing Libya, a country where they are subjected to severe violence. They require international protection, regardless of their country of origin. Preventing them to apply for asylum and returning them to the place from which they are fleeing is a crime against humanity. Coordinating who is chasing them, providing their whereabouts while they are trying to escape from their captors, as the European agency Frontex has been shown to do in this case as well, is in open violation of the Geneva Convention, signed by European states.

EU member states and agencies act in clear violation of human rights. It is time for civil society to coordinate search and rescue activities: A Civil Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (or CMRCC) capable of responding adequately to distress cases and able to coordinate searches and rescue activities up to disembarkation at a POS. A CMRCC that is composed of a wide network of diverse civil society actors and that is willing, and able, to rescue – something that EU member states fail to do in their quest to prevent human beings from reaching safety in Europe, no matter the cost.

* press release Italian Coast Guard


Migranti: barca davanti a Libia, G.Costiera invia mercantili A bordo 97 persone, Marina libica non e’ riuscita ad intervenire (ANSA)

ROMA, 02 MAG – Due navi mercantili sono state inviate dalla Guardia Costiera italiana in soccorso di una barca di legno con migranti a bordo, segnalata davanti alle coste libiche. E’ quanto rendono noto fonti della Guardia Costiera, in merito alla segnalazione pervenuta da un cittadino libico e da Alarm Phone circa la presenza di un’imbarcazione in legno partita ieri sera da Zuara, con circa 97 persone a bordo. Il barcone, in effetti, e’ stato avvistato da un velivolo Frontex alla deriva in area di responsabilita’ Sar libica. La Guardia costiera libica, che ha assunto il coordinamento dell’evento Sar, ha inviato una propria motovedetta che non e’ riuscita a raggiungere il punto a causa di avverse condizioni meteo marine, spiegano le stesse fonti. La stessa Guardia costiera libica ha chiesto, successivamente, la collaborazione della Guardia Costiera italiana al fine di dirottare i mercantili piu’ vicini, secondo quanto previsto dalle convenzioni internazionali in materia ricerca e soccorso in mare. La Centrale Operativa della Guardia Costiera italiana ha cosi’ individuato, grazie ai sistemi di monitoraggio, le due unita’ piu’ vicine al punto di avvistamento del velivolo Frontex. Le unita’, un supply vessel e una petroliera, coordinate dalle autorita’ libiche, giungeranno nelle prossime ore sull’ultima posizione nota dell’imbarcazione riferita dal velivolo Frontex. (ANSA).

News (EN)

Letter to President Mario Draghi – Request for an urgent meeting

Dear President Mario Draghi,

After yet another tragedy in the Mediterranean last Thursday, we believe it is crucial to ask you for an urgent meeting.  Every time a shipwreck takes place, we hope it will be the last. Even this recent tragedy could have probably been avoided.

During the more than 24 hours that passed between the first Alarm Phone report and the tragic event, Ocean Viking waited for maritime authorities to intervene and  coordinate rescue operations. However, despite the fact that the Italian, Libyan and Maltese authorities were constantly kept informed, no coordination of rescue operations took place. Or rather,  it did not involve the only rescue ship present in that area at the time. The fatal result of this failing is clear to everyone:  over one hundred people lost their lives.

This, Mr. President, is the reality of the situation in the Mediterranean Sea. Since 2014, more than 20,000 men, women and children have either died or disappeared in the Central Mediterranean which confirms its sorrowful reputation as the world’s deadliest migrant route.

After the end of the Mare Nostrum Operation, no agreement or provision adopted by any States has succeeded in reducing the mortality rate. Since then, NGOs have attempted to fill the vacuum left by these States. However, the absence of a centralised, expedient, and coherent coordination of search and rescue efforts causes tragedies, such as the one  that took place  last Thursday,  to weigh on our collective conscience.

For several years, the intervention of civil maritime rescue ships were welcomed and appreciated by the Italian and European authorities with whom we had been collaborating continuously and efficiently to reduce mortality in the Mediterranean Sea. Then things changed: governments withdrew their ships and stopped coordinating rescue operations. Instead of being rescued and brought to a safe port, as International Maritime Law would require, people started to be pushed back to Libya by Libyan authorities. There, they are subjected to arbitrary detentions, violence and abuses of every kind: all of which are widely documented. As this was happening, NGOs became the target of a fierce campaign of delegitimization and criminalization.

As was reaffirmed by European Commissioner Ursula Von Der Leyen herself: “rescue at sea is not an optional,” but a well-defined State obligation.  Therefore, it is a legal obligation as well as a moral one. As NGOs, we are at sea to fill a void. But, we would be ready to step aside if Europe were to establish an effective institutional and coordinated search and rescue mechanism with the primary aim of rescuing people at sea.

Dear Mr. President, we are asking you for a meeting to discuss concrete initiatives your Government can undertake, together with European authorities,  to guarantee coordinated and prompt search and rescue operations so that saving human lives can again be the utmost priority and so that unacceptable tragedies, like the most recent shipwreck, never happen again.

Alarm Phone, Emergency, Medici Senza Frontiere, Mediterranea Saving Humans, Open Arms, ResQ-People saving People, Sea Watch, SOS MEDITERRANEE.

 

April 25, 2021

News (EN)

International Solidarity Call for Mediterranea Saving Humans

We receive and gladly publish from CriticalLegalThinking.com:

Mediterranea Saving Humans is under attack in Italy. Several members of Mediterranea are accused by the Office of Public Prosecutor of Ragusa of “facilitating illegal immigration.” It is definitely not the first time that such an accusation has been used to criminalize civil migrant rescue operations at sea. One of the prosecutors in Ragusa had initiated in 2004 the case against Cap Anamur, which ended in the full acquittal of all charges. In recent days other NGOs have been targeted with similar charges in Sicily.  Solidarity with migrants and refugees reaching Italy across the “Balkan route” is also at the center of judicial investigations and police operations. Also migrants are criminalized, as in the case of the “El Hiblu 3” in Malta and Moria in Greece. Once again, we are confronted with attempts to give priority to border security over the duty to rescue people at risk. While lawyers continue to fight in court against such violations of international and human rights law, there is also a need to stand up politically and to affirm the key role of migrant sea rescue and solidarity practices in the struggle for a more open and democratic Europe.

The criminalization of Mediterranea is emblematic of the current conjuncture. The charge is built around a maritime operation carried out by the ship Mare Jonio (run by Mediterranea) on September 11, 2020. At the beginning of August, the oil tanker Maersk Etienne rescued 27 migrants in the Maltese SAR zone. Although the Maltese authorities coordinated the rescue operation, they never assigned a “Place of Safety” and the 27 migrants were forced to spend 37 days on a ship floating in the Central Mediterranean without medical facilities and proper accommodation. It was probably the longest stand-off in the history of the Mediterranean, and we should stress that the 27 migrants were in critical condition due to their arduous journey, including prolonged detention in Libya. The Mare Jonio answered a request of the captain of the Maersk Etienne and the medical staff of Mediterranea went on board, immediately realizing the unbearable conditions of the migrants. A transhipment was organized, and the Mare Jonio immediately set sail toward Sicily, where the migrants were eventually authorized to disembark.

The Public Prosecutor contends that there was a “financial agreement” between the ship owners of the Mare Jonio and Maersk Tankers. This charge has already been shown false by a detailed statement of the Danish company and we do not need to dwell on that here. More important is the fact that the Maersk Etienne case is part and parcel of a relatively long history of European measures and policies that aim at discouraging commercial ships from engaging in operations of sea rescue. From this point of view, the collaboration between an oil tanker owned by a leading global player in the shipping industry and the small tug boat Mare Jonio is really not surprising. It indicates the potential of an alliance among a wide variety of civil actors operating at sea around the issue of migrant rescue. It is important to recognize that many shipping companies are very concerned about this issue, often combining humanitarian motivations and commercial interests. The fact that members of Mediterranea participated in meetings with European Shipowners’ associations and Shipping companies in recent months must have been perceived as the potential opening up of the struggle for sea rescue on a new scale. And it is easy to imagine that this appeared as a threat to prosecutors (and politicians) who obsessively contend that states should be the exclusive actors in sea rescue, even though in vast stretches of sea state interventions are completely absent.

Especially given the fact that the Mediterranean Sea continues to be the most lethal border in the world, we want to show unconditional solidarity with Mediterranea as well as with the other NGOs under attack. We support the coalition of civil actors engaged as a “civil fleet” in solidarity with migrants and refugees at sea and on land. We are convinced that this coalition, which continues to grow and to create unexpected alliances, already foreshadows a new Europe and new relations with its outsides in the South as well as in the East. We are particularly concerned for Mediterranea, which is currently blocked from undertaking rescue operations at sea. And we know how expensive are the lawyers’ fees and other legal expenses necessary to defend against legal attacks such as the one launched by the Public Prosecutor of Ragusa. For all these reasons we launch an international fundraising campaign in support of Mediterranea. And we strongly invite all citizens and organisations convinced that rescue should be prioritized over everything else to contribute to the fundraising.

 

First signatures:

Carola Rackete (Captain)

Pia Klemp (Captain)

Achille Mbembe (University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg)

Naomi Klein (Author and journalist)

Cornel West (Harvard University)

Sabine Hess (Director of Center for Global Migration Studies, University of Göttingen)

Michael Hardt (Duke University)

Erik Marquardt (MEP)

Sandro Mezzadra (University of Bologna)

Manuela Bojadzijev (Humboldt University, Berlin)

Charles Heller (Graduate Institute, Geneva, and Co-director of Forensic Oceanography)

Sara Prestianni (Human rights activist)

Lorenzo Pezzani (Goldsmiths, University of London)

Isabelle Saint-Sens (MigrEurop)

Hagen Kopp (no one is illegal)

Maurice Stierl (University of Warwick)

 

Email address for further subscriptions or information requests:

[email protected]

 

Donatations can be made:

Online:

https://donate.mediterranearescue.it/solidarity/

By Bank Transfer:

Bank: Banca Etica;

Beneficiary Account Name: Mediterranea Saving Humans APS;

Beneficiary Account Number (IBAN): IT37V0501802400000016878019;

BIC: CCRTIT2T84A;

Transfer Causal: “Solidarity with Mediterranea”

 

News (EN)

Mare Jonio, wrong question in Ragusa investigation

The prosecution links solidarity and profit: hypothesis of a crime that does not exist

By STEFANO ZIRULIA, Jurist at Milan University, for l’Avvenire, edition of 5 March 2021.

Dear Director,

“They did it for financial gain, not out of solidarity.” The serious charges that have been slithering around for days made against the crew of the Mare Jonio regarding the transport to Pozzallo of 27 migrants rescued at sea by the Danish merchant ship, Etienne,  can be summarized in such a statement. Claiming to have evidence that the transfer of shipwrecked people from the Danish ship to the Italian one was based on a business transaction, Ragusa’s Public Prosecutor’s Office has opened a case for aiding and abetting illegal immigration. The Prosecutor’s Office alleges that the owner of the Danish shipping company deposited a significant sum of money in return for the service rendered by the Italian organization. Even though the examination of what actually took place will occur during the court proceedings, the emphasis put upon economic matters objectively seems disproportionate and it distracts from the real issues regarding this matter. In fact, in Italy, the personal responsibility involved in the crime of aiding and abetting illegal immigration does not lie in whether one has acted for financial gain; rather simply, the crime lies in illegally transporting foreigners who have no documents to Italy (Article 12, Consolidated Act on Immigration). If the act is committed for financial gain, then an aggravating factor is taken into account and more severe penalties apply. However, the offence exists even in the case where there is no financial gain. This is exactly how the issue of the “crime of solidarity” was created. Italian law, as it is currently written, brings to the stand both those acting for financial gain and those whose objectives are unselfish.

However, a recent decision by the Court of Appeals (the court which declared Carola Rackete’s arrest unlawful at the beginning of 2020) has finally made clear that Article 12 of the Consolidated Act on Immigration is not absolute nor does it stand alone. It must be interpreted and applied by judges while taking into consideration how it fits within the given legal framework, including the international laws which regulate rescue operations at sea.  According to the Court of Appeals, this is the reason why the transport to Italy of shipwrecked people cannot be considered “illegal”- not even when they are undocumented. The duty to aid and rescue human lives at risk is decreed by the Conventions on Maritime Law (i.e. United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue, International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea) and this duty overrides any state interests regarding border protection.

If this is the case, then let’s turn our attention back to current events. The game of criminal responsibility of Mare Jonio’s crew is not being played on the field of (alleged) monetary profit. But rather, yet again, the crime is the carrying out of the duty of rescue at sea. And, because that duty includes not only the peaceful rescue of shipwrecked people but also the subsequent disembarkation to a safe port, it begs the question whether Mediterranea’s crew’s intervention of taking onboard 27 migrants served to resolve a deadlocked situation that had resulted in the unjustified delay of disembarkment.

According to available information, it seems that the answer to this question is “yes.” The migrants were on board the Etienne for 37 days. Clearly, this was a longer period than what triggered charges for kidnapping in the Gregoretti and Open Arms cases. The physical and psychological wellbeing of the 27 migrants was progressively deteriorating and their repeated requests for help were ignored. Faced with the inaction of the authorities, Mare Jonio’s intervention did nothing other than guarantee that these people were brought to a safe port “in a timely manner” as required by the Convention of Hamburg, which was ratified by Italy. Just as in Rackete’s case, yet again, the carrying out of duty means the crime does not exist.  To discuss the aggravating factor of financial gain without discussing aiding and abetting illegal immigration is like planning to furnish a house that does not yet have a roof or walls- it is nonsense. Ragusa’s Public Prosecutor’s Office is definitely aware that this is nonsense. The discussion surrounding this event should also be made aware of this.

News (EN)

Press Release- Monday, March 1, 2021

This morning at dawn, a major police operation against Mediterranea Saving Humans was carried out. Ragusa’s public prosecutor’s office executed search warrants involving dozens of agents throughout Italy: in homes, in social centers, and on the ship, Mare Jonio. The charges are serious but the real target is the civil rescue operation at sea that Mediterranea has carried out since 2018 through its shipping company, Idra social shippping, which provides the association with the search and rescue ship and manages its crews and equipment.

Ragusa’s public prosecutor has made public his personal crusade against ONGs many times having declared that “it is necessary to not allow for the idea that removing migrants from the hands of the Libyans is acceptable.” What happened today is a true and real “judiciary theorem” in which the activities of search and rescue are assumed to be prearranged as profit-making schemes. This hypothesis so contrived that the primary and true objective of this operation is obvious: to create “a mud slinging machine” as we have often seen in action in our country- from the case of Mimmo Lucano to present-day investigations of anyone involved in supporting migrants who travel the Baltic route, and the shooting point blank of anyone, who like us, does not resign themselves to the already hundreds of deaths of women, men and children left to die in the Mediterranean since the beginning of the year or to the already thousands captured at sea and deported to the Libyan concentration camps that are financed with the money of the European Union and Italy. The searches are meant to find “evidence” because the charges, despite thousands of hours of phone taps and surveillance, are, in reality, founded on speculation that will melt like snow under the sun.

The rescue of 27 shipwrecked people by the Maersk Etienne who were abandonned at sea in betwen Malta and Lampedusa for 38 days on board a container ship which brough them to safety is the event under examination. This event was named “the shame of Europe,” this inhumane abandonment, the longest standoff in memory involving shipwrecked people who in theory, according to International Conventions, have the right to reach a safe port “promptly.” Idra social shipping has never been involved in anything illegal and will prove this in the appropriate venue. And, Mediterranea will not stop because of this sad and predictable attack. Mediterranea will continue to be at sea- there where crimes of slaughter, torture, rape and persecution are carried out.

News (EN)

9 February 2021 CommemorAction: Solidarity with the families of the 91 people who disappeared at sea!

By Alarm Phone – to participate info here.

One year ago, on 9 February 2020, at 04.09 AM, the Alarm Phone was called by a group of 91 people who were in distress on a deflating black rubber boat off Garabulli, Libya. They were in panic, but they managed to clearly communicate their GPS coordinates, which Alarm Phone immediately relayed to the Italian and Maltese authorities, as well as to the so-called Libyan coastguard.

At 05.35h CET, the people in distress called the Alarm Phone for the last time. Contact with the boat was lost ever since.

The so-called Libyan coastguard, financed and trained by Italian and European authorities in their efforts to delegate border controls and border violence, told Alarm Phone that they had no intention to search and rescue the people in distress “because the detention centers were full”. 

That day, another boat was rescued to Malta, and many hoped this was the boat that had alerted Alarm Phone. However, it quickly became clear that this was a second boat in distress: a white rather than a black boat, with 82 instead of 91 people on board. 

Due to the silence by authorities on the fate of the black rubber boat, as well as of most boats in distress in the Central Mediterranean Sea, the Alarm Phone as well as relatives and friends of people in distress, often have to rely on fragmented information and try to match crucial – although minimal – details to understand what happened to people in distress. 

The days that followed 9 February 2020 clearly revealed that the 91 people were nowhere to be found. There was no trace of them on land, and nothing indicating they were still at sea. 

One month later, we wrote an open letter to all authorities asking about what happened on that day and what they have done to search and rescue the people in distress. We did not receive any answer from any of them.

Only ten months later, when we sent another request to all authorities in December 2020, Frontex responded – clearly the result of increased pressures on the EU border agency and investigations into its participation in push-backs which has prompted international attention and condemnation.  

The picture shared by Frontex, taken on 9 February 2020, shows a deflated rubber boat in a position near the one reported by the 91 people in distress. However, no human remains are visible in the picture.

Throughout the past year, families and friends of the 91 people who were on board the black rubber boat contacted Alarm Phone as well as European authorities in their search for their loved ones, but nobody could give them answers. 

Thanks to these collective efforts and self-organisation by the families, mostly in Darfur, a list of  missing people was created, showing 62 names and many pictures, giving a name, a face, a smile to many of those who European authorities made disappear at sea. 

Without bodies being found, and without clear answers, it is impossible for their families to know their fate and to have closure. 

The 91 people who went missing on 9 February are not accounted for in official statistics, which only count those shipwrecks confirmed by survivors. In absence of witnesses, dozens of shipwrecks are not recorded and acknowledged by international organisations. 

We reject the logic of reducing Black/Migrant people, their lives and their deaths to numbers and statistics. This racist dehumanisation does not account for the loss of Abdul, of Aboubacar, of Adnan, of Afdel. It does not account for the pain inflicted to their mothers, their sisters, their friends. It does not account for the White supremacist violence, by action and by inaction, historical and present, that keeps murdering Black/Migrant lives or lets them die at sea.

The silence and lack of acknowledgement denies entire communities the right to know about what happened to the people who went missing. It denies entire communities the right to bury their loved ones, to mourn them, and to find closure after painful searches. 

Whilst entire communities are affected by this violent silence, they refuse to be silenced and instead mobilise to demand answers. Today, the families and friends of the 91 missing people are gathering in Al Fasher, Darfur, to commemorate their loved ones and to protest against the invisibilisation of disappearance of loved ones.

In solidarity with them, and in solidarity with the friends and families of all people who went missing or were killed by the violent European border regime, today we gather in several cities to demand answers.  

Together with them, we speak their names out loud, to remind Europe that each Black Life matters, that we will not forget, and that we will keep fighting against this racist border regime. 

Together with them, we demand an immediate end to racist violence, to the killing of people on the move, and to their forced disappearance. 

Today and every day we fight to hold Europe accountable for its racist violence, and we fight for freedom of movement for all.

Stop deaths at sea, now!