One Year after: Statement of Carola Rackete
One year ago captain Carola Rackete steered the Sea-Watch 3 without authorisation into the port of Lampedusa. Before, her crew rescued 53 people out of maritime distress. Then Italian Minister of Interior, Matteo Salvini, refused the ship entry into port. During more than two weeks of a standoff, the situation on board deteriorated, while the whole of Europe was watching without providing a solution. Finally, Carola Rackete moored the ship in port without authorisation (29.06.2019) and was temporarily arrested. In January 2020, the Italian Supreme Court ruled her arrest was not justified.
Despite many requests, she will not be giving any interviews surrounding the anniversary of the rescue. Here is her statement explaining the reasons.
“One year ago, I entered the port of Lampedusa without authorisation, after my crew and I rescued 53 people from maritime distress and after whole Europe let us down for more than two weeks. Our crew had to do this as part of the civil rescue fleet because the European Union withdrew all its ships from the EU sea border, despite knowing that refugees fleeing from the ongoing war in Libya are attempting the crossing. Our crew had to be out at sea because we know human rights are universal and maritime law does not care about passports. I felt we had to be out at sea not only to carry out the rescue but also as a sign of resistance against the structural racism of the European authorities.
Structural racism is as much a problem in the EU as it is in the US. If #BlackLivesMatter in the US demands to defund the police departments, we consequently have to demand to #DefundFrontex in Europe. (https://progressive.international/wire/2020-06-04-solidarity-means-dismantling-the-system-everywhere/ ) The whole concept of this agency is to enforce the racist border policy of European states. Just this week, Sea-Watch observed a Frontex aircraft coordinating an illegal pushback operation to Libya, just one of many known and documented cases.
I also need to point out again that, despite the new Italian government coalition being in power, nothing fundamentally changed within the EU and at the EU external border. If there was change at all, things got worse during the last year. Malta in the first place, but also other European states, including Germany, are using the Corona pandemic as an excuse to abandon human rights and to stop adhering to the law of the sea. On Easter weekend, despite their position being known to EU authorities, shipwrecked people were left adrift for days in the Maltese rescue zone, before being intercepted by a private “ghost fleet ship” which the Maltese government had hired to illegally return the 51 survivors and 5 bodies to Libya. Seven more of them had drowned before. Little is known about further similar cases since then, because civil eyes at sea are unwanted. Different European states, including Spain, Malta, Italy, the Netherlands and Germany, continue to hinder rescue and monitoring missions at sea and in the air.
All EU citizens should know: Those people who are drowning in the Mediterranean – at least 96 deaths within this month – are not the victims of an unexpected accident or a natural disaster. They drown because the European Union wants them to drown, to scare those who might attempt to cross. They drown because Europe denies them access to any safe routes and leaves them no options other than to risk their lives at sea. And no one would enter such a boat, unless it was safer than the shore!
We, as European citizens, have to stop this policy! We have to tear down Fortress Europe, created to let the poor die off the Mediterranean shores where no one sees them. There must be equality and freedom for all, to live and to move without fear for one’s life.
Until this becomes a reality, civil sea rescue will continue to be like volunteer fire fighters attempting to put out fires purposely set ablaze by the arsonists of the EU and the wider Global North. And despite the Italian Supreme Court validating my decision to enter the port and bring the people to safety in accordance with maritime law, the criminalization of sea rescue continues; in my case, and in investigations of others who act in solidarity with people on the move.
This story, however, should not be about me at all. This is why I do not want to be the one talking. The persistent framing of myself and other rescue volunteers in the Mediterranean as heroes is a deeply problematic narrative. It removes the spotlight from the people we rescued and wrongly creates the illusion that some people are unique or different. But like most Europeans, we – as the crew of Sea-Watch 3 – are above all one thing: privileged. That does not mean we do not face any problems in life. It means that in my case, as a white person, I did not fear for a second that the police might kill me during the arrest or later in a police cell as has happened to many Black people, including in Germany. And that is what we need to act on.
If there are any heroes in that story, it is the people we encountered at sea and who survived so much more than crossing the sea in an unseaworthy boat. There is no need for a white person to take the stage as a supposed “voice of the voiceless.” The people we rescue may have lost many things in their lives, but they haven’t lost their own voices and they are the experts of their own experiences. If we want to overcome structural racism, we should start by listening to them. This is why I will not give any interviews on the anniversary of the Sea-Watch 3 mission last year. Instead, I ask everyone to listen to those whom Europe would rather let drown than allow to reach its shores. Make their voices heard.”
To start with making their voices heard, Carola Rackete will host an online panel on the anniversary of her entry to the port of Lampedusa and her arrest, on monday the 29th of June 2020. Carola Rackete will only be the moderator, there will be no Q&A on the Situation of Sea-Watch or her case.
On the panel
Hassan Zakaria Omar
He survived the airstrike on the Tajoura prison in Tripolis, where he and hundreds of other refugees were held illegally. He is still in Libya and will join us, if the circumstances allow.
Abdul Aziz Muhamat
He is Sudanese and spent 6 years in Australian offshore detention. Even though his case is not in the Med, it shows why we should not allow for people to be put in offshore detention where no NGOs and civil society can reach them.
12 year old, she and her family had to flee with an old rusty cargo vessel. Upon arrival in Germany, she – as thousands of others – found the strains of the German asylum system and had to face the deportation of family members. Today she is involved in different initiatives such as “Jugendliche ohne Grenzen / youth without borders” to fight for for the participation and empowerment of refugees and migrants, for the right to stay, for freedom of movement and a society without racism. Furthermore, Newroz is working as a trauma pedagogue.
He is an Egyptian human rights lawyer and Migration activist. He was granted the political Asylum status in 2018. He is a member of Watch the Med – Alarm Phone and works as an advocate and an independent consultant researcher on the field of migration policies and on the EU affairs with North African countries. He has a long experience on community organizing and migratory routes from Africa to Europe. He writes studies and reports for different NGOs and institutions such as EIPR, EuroMed Rights, Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung and ‘Border Criminologies’ at Oxford University. Also, he is making Rap music!