#1 EU loses its humanitarian face
EU Heads of State or Government and Turkey agreed to end “irregular migration” from Turkey to the EU in March. Closing the borders effectively decreased numbers of passages across the Aegean Sea, but left people without the right to claim asylum and made them vulnerable to human rights violations, as a report by Pro Asyl shows. For the same reason, Sea-Watch condemns EU plans to send boat refugees back to Tunisia. This is not what a #SafePassage looks like!
#2 Major boat accident
On April 18, the day our new ship, the Sea-Watch 2, left the harbor for the very first time, over 500 people drowned in the sea. For our crew, it was sad déjà-vu: a similar tragedy had happened one year ago, exactly the day the Sea-Watch 1 set out for the Mediterranean. https://www.tagesschau.de/ausland/mittelmeer-fluechtlinge-125.html
#3 Encounters with the Libyan Coast Guard
Armed men entered the Sea-Watch 2 in April, after shooting in the air with an AK47. The gunmen claimed to belong to the Libyan Coast Guard. The crew was able to calm down the situation and the gunmen left the boat. The so called “control” was made under the excuse of a suspicion of “illegal fishing” – it will not stay the last incident with the self styled coast guard, though.
#4 Dead baby stands for tragedy in the Med
The world was shocked by the picture of this dead baby, taken during our rescue mission in May. Ruben Neugebauer put it very simply: “If we do not want to see such pictures we have to stop producing them.” The infant was found in the water after a wooden boat carrying 350 migrants capsized off the Libyan coast. Sea-Watch sent a clear message: rescue missions cannot be the solution to this structural problem. Photo: Bütte. https://www.democracynow.org/2016/6/1/as_1_000_migrants_drown_under
#5 Sea-Watch documents illegal push-backs
The Libyan Coast Guard tracks migrant boats and forces them to return to the coast, where prison and torture await the refugees. On several occasions, the crew of the Sea-Watch 2 witnessed push-backs and their tragic consequences. These actions by the Libyan Coast Guard clearly violate the EU principle of non-refoulement.
#6 Gun fire on civil rescue mission
Sea-Watch was shocked that Libyan forces would go as far as shooting a civil rescue vessel. The attack on the MSF run ‘Burbon Argos’ in August led SAR NGOs to pause their missions to ensure the safety of all crew members. Sea-Watch condemned the armed attack by the Libyan Coast guard, but soon returned to the sea: Still the biggest risk in the area was taken by thousands of migrants each day who are forced on unseaworthy boats by a European Union refusing any #SafePassage.
#7 Libyan Forces seize a speed boat of German NGO
In September, a boat of the German NGO “Sea-Eye” was patrolling off the Libyan coast, when suddenly a boat with an armed crew approached them and forcefully took them to the harbour of az-Zawiyya. Libyan authorities claimed that the Speedy had entered Libyan territorial waters without permission. Sea-Watch does not accept arbitrary actions of military forces whose accusations are contradictory. Therefore, the EU’s efforts to train members of the Libyan Coast Guard are highly questionable.
#8 LYCG violently interrupts Sea-Watch rescue mission
On October 21, members of the Libyan Coast Guard hit migrants on a rubber boat with sticks and kept our crew from distributing life jackets and continuing in the process of support. The incident caused multiple deaths, people drowned before the eyes of the crew who could not rescue everyone at once. Sea-Watch filed a complaint against the LYCG which is still being processed by the public prosecution in Hamburg. This was the last of at least five cases in which the Libyan Coast Guard, a division of the Marine, attacked civil rescue missions in 2016.
Libyan Coast Guard attack causes multiple deaths in October. Photo: C. Ditsch
#9 Sea-Watch fears criminalization of rescue forces
Frontex accused NGOs of collaborating with people smugglers from Libya, as the Financial Times reported in December. “Frontex itself creates a market for trafficking, since the border protection agency is implementing the EU’s policy of closure”, Sea-Watch CEO Axel Grafmanns clearly rejected these accusations. “A criminalization of those who help where the EU fails seems to become the European strategy in 2017.”
#10 Sad record of people dead/missing
Photo: jib collective / Ruben Neugebauer
More than 5000 people will not be able to celebrate New Year’s Eve tonight. They drowned in the Mediterranean in 2016. In December, Sea-Watch activists lit candles in front of the Berlin Reichstagsgebäude to commemorate the dead, demanding a #SafePassage.