On 30 July, the Asso Ventotto, an Italian merchant vessel, brought 108 people to Libya after rescuing them in international waters. This has not only breached international law but, above all, endangered the lives of the rescued, because Libya is not a safe place. Italy had already been convicted in a similar case in 2012, two of the persons affected had already died in another escape attempt by then. Therefor, the illegal behaviour of the Asso Ventotto must have consequences now: Sea-Watch demands the immediate evacuation of the people to a safe place, not just when a corresponding sentence is passed and this time before someone dies.
In 2012, after a similar action in the “Hirsi Jamaa” case before the European Court of Human Rights, Italy was sentenced for serious human rights violations. At that time, an Italian military ship brought some 200 Eritrean and Somali refugees back to Libya. Some of the victims filed complaints at the ECHR – with success. Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights also applies at sea: no one shall be subjected to torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. For two of the victims, however, this verdict came too late; they had already died in further escape attempts.
This is precisely what now threatens the 108 people deported to Libya. “Several days after the incident, the refugees are still in Libya and their whereabouts are completely unclear, although IOM and UNHCR are active on the ground. This is a scandal.“, says Sea-Watch Chairman Johannes Bayer. Libya is by no means a safe place, as a recent report by the European External Action Service shows, among other things, migrants in Libya are at risk of torture and unlawful detention, and the situation is particularly serious for women.
While European governments are looking the other way, more and more people are showing solidarity at the regional level. Just last week, 3 cities in North Rhine-Westphalia agreed to accept people who are saved on the Mediterranean, more and more German cities are following. Now it’s time for action: We call on the Federal Government to take action for the immediate evacuation of the people who fled and to bring them to safety in Germany. We have the safe harbours, enough places have agreed to take in people. “Safe and legal escape routes must also be created for other people seeking protection, but in this case it is quite clear that the illegal behaviour of Asso Ventotto must have consequences and must under no circumstances set an example. These people must now be brought to safety before someone else dies, and not just when a verdict is reached in a few years’ time.“, says Bayer.