Refugee crisis: three rescue boats return to Mediterranean

Open Arms, Mediterranea, and Sea-Watch 3 will return to sea to continue their search-and-rescue operations, the three NGO rescue ships announced. In the absence of the European Union, these civilian organizations — from Spain, Italy, and Germany, respectively — will continue their vital lifesaving mission in the deadly waters of the Mediterranean. Crucially, they will also there to bear witness to potential human rights violations and criminal acts of neglect by the coast guard and cargo ships in the region. The Moonbird rescue helicopter will be joining their efforts.

“We are setting a good example and give a European response to the state-imposed state of emergency in the Mediterranean, which is committed to the ideals of solidarity and human rights,” said Johannes Bayer, Head of Operations on the Sea-Watch 3, in a statement.

He continued, “We do not want to live in a Europe that has turned its maritime border into a mass grave as a deterrent and has its Libyan bouncers do the dirty work. We see ourselves as part of an alliance for a humane Europe at sea, on land and in the air, a Europe of safe havens and cities and communities based on solidarity. As long as the EU lets people drown in the Mediterranean, we will continue to go to sea.”

The three NGOs have published a joint manifesto under the heading #United4Med, which is available in full here (in Italian).

The work that civilian rescue ships do is absolutely vital — 29,523 lives have been have been saved by the Aquarius alone since 2016. The three ships’ announcement could not have come at a better time. 70% of deaths in the Mediterranean this year have occurred since various EU policies criminalizing civilian rescue operations have cut down on the number of NGO ships in Mediterranean waters. The Aquarius is currently kneecapped in Marseille.

In September 2018, a month during which nearly no civilian rescue boats were operational in the Mediterranean, one in five people who attempted the crossing drowned, according to the Italian Institute for Political Studies’ most recent report.

The grave necessity of humanitarian rescue operations in the Mediterranean is illustrated nearly every day. On Saturday last week, when a boat with 120 refugees aboard began to sink, at least 30 miles off the Libyan coast, Libyan and Italian maritime operations both ignored Alarmphone’s appeal for aid; the Italian Search and Rescue operation claimed that the boat was out of its jurisdiction and failed to send a mayday call to cargo ships in the area. Only after Mediterranea and Open Arms — which was 8 hours away at the time — were alerted to the situation and jumped into action did the authorities finally act. Hours had passed. During that time, people drowned.

Lorenzo D’Agostino posted a Twitter thread detailing the story as it unfolded. His last dispatch: “#Mediterranea says Rome has confirmed to them that the Libyan Coast Guard has taken over the rescue operations. No reports of casualties. Incredibly with 120 lives at stake, the whole thing unfolded in complete radio silence.”

~via Are You Syrious