We still remember the faces and the stories of the 59 people we have rescued on the 4th of July with the sailboat Alex & Co.
We remember their dignity, their courage, the extraordinary strength they had in those long 50 hours when the governments had abandoned us, them and us, without assigning us a safe harbor even though we had 70 people on a boat of just 18 meters, with the bathrooms out of order, with no water in the tanks, with few food supplies.
We remember how conscious those women and those boys were about the violence they had suffered. In their own words: “better an entire life on this boat with you than a minute longer in Libya”; we remember the numbers they had written on their dresses, children are included: they were all marked. We remember their terrified faces when the patrol boat donated by Italy to the Libyans chased us and then approached us, and they still feared we would have returned them back to a life of torture.
And we also remember, still full of indignation, the orders of the Italian Maritime Rescue Coordination Center, informed of that raft in distress, which told us we should have reported the rescued migrants to the Libyans. And, as we have always done, we refused.
On July 6 we entered with our sailing boat “Alex” the port of Lampedusa, declaring the state of emergency, violating the Italian Safety Decree Bis. By doing so, we were following the human rights law, the law of the sea and the Italian Constitution.
The people we have brought to safety are today witnesses of an investigation into the crimes of torture, rape, murder, perpetrated in Libya by jailers who are now in custody in Italy and that our fellow travelers have been able to recognize. They can now tell, being finally heard, of the electrocutions on their bodies, of the beatings, of the killings, of the group violence on women, of a system defined by the public prosecutor of Agrigento (Sicily) as a “crime against humanity”.
Justice and truth are now re-emerging thanks to the exceptional courage of those who cross the Mediterranean Sea, fleeing the horrors of Libya, to regain dignity as a human beings, putting at risk their own lives, and in small part thanks to the ships that had the privilege to find these people.
But this is only the beginning of a longer process, which must go up the chain of institutional responsibilities with respect to the very serious and repeated violations that for years have marked the Mediterranean.
The torturers, already recognized as such and being investigated, acted beneath Libyan government centers. Those centers directly funded by Italy and the EU. The ‘circular’ system of capture, extortion, throwing into the sea, re-capture at sea, torture again, extortion again and so on, functions thanks to the memorandum of understanding signed by the Italian government with Libya in February 2017. The so-called Libyan coast guard patrol boats are Italian boats and are guided by the European Union’s airplanes, when they intercept and bring back the migrants in the hands of those criminals.
The accomplices of this crime against humanity are in Europe, and have institutional political functions.
The agreements with Libya should be torn up immediately, and it will be too late anyways, because history has already spoken. Meanwhile, we will return to the sea, as we have been doing since October 4, 2018, to rescue as many children, women and men we can from death and torture.