We, as representatives of the private aid organisations Sea-Watch and Jugend Rettet, which are operating in the field of humanitarian assistance at the Central Mediterranean, are addressing this open letter directly to you. Yours as well as our organisations are active in the same area at sea, therefore it is necessary to reconcile our all actions in order to improve any cooperation in conditions of emergency. Consequently, we are seeking for a dialogue with you.
On the 27th of February 2017 you have given an interview with the German newspaper “Die Welt” and have mentioned strong concerns in regard to our civil rescue missions. Such statements by your part as the director of the European Border Agency Frontex do contribute significantly to a public criminalisation of our life-saving work.
We have to deal with the groundless accusations that are being construed in the public sphere, instead of being able to concentrate all resources solely on decreasing the mortality at the Central Mediterranean. In this context we will clarify once again: We are active at the Central Mediterranean due to a lacking willingness by the EU governments to provide an appropriate sea rescue program. Since the year 2000, about 30.000 people have been estimated as dead – this amount of deaths are clearly implicating the failure of all EU states.
Instead of contacting us directly we got to know your accusations only by the press. Thereby you have never mentioned what and whom exactly you refer to when you claim “NGOs would not cooperate well with the security authorities”.
We have to confirm that the cooperation with state actors at the Central Mediterranean is currently problematic. All SAR organisations in the area of activity have reached their limits while rescuing thousands of people throughout the Easter weekend. Only one vessel of Frontex, the Norwegian Siem Pilot, was participating in a rescue operation even though you are operating 11 vessels in total in that area. Several private rescue ships have sent out a Mayday, which also should have reached your vessel via maritime signal. Nevertheless, any form of support was absent. We see an urgent need to talk with respect to the past events.
Your Human Rights Officer had cancelled on very short notice and without any reasonable explanation the last opportunity for a constructive dialogue in person at the European Parliament (28th March 2017) in Brussels. Such cancellations have happened repeatedly by now.
Therefore we would like to invite you to a meeting with Sea-Watch and Jugend Rettet on the 12th of May 2017 in Berlin. The agenda would be as follows:
2:00 – 2:30 pm Coffee and brief introduction
2:30 – 4:00 pm Impulse presentations: SAR in the Central Mediterranean Sea – introduction of private actors
4:00 – 5.30 pm Clarification of accusations by Frontex
5:30 – 6.30 pm Joint debate
6:30 – 8:00 pm Workshop: Improvement of search and rescue in the Mediterranean
In the area of activity all actors have to cooperate in a positive manner. With this intention we are seeking for a dialogue with you. Consequently it is about saving lives of people in immediate need of assistance in moments of distress at sea. Therefore a common approach is needed, especially in emergency conditions at the Central Mediterranean Sea. The Maydays of the Easter weekend cannot repeat themselves ever again.
With kind regards,