NGOs who rescue people from drowning at sea are encouraging smugglers who profit from dangerous Mediterranean crossings, Frontex Director Fabrice Leggeri told the German newspaper “DIE WELT” on Feb 27, 2017.
The signatories of this statement jointly reject these reproaches which distort the facts. People do not migrate because there are smuggling networks. Smuggling networks exist, because people have to flee. Only safe and legal routes to Europe can put an end to the traffickers’ business.
Fabrice Leggeri makes it sound like an allegation that “40 percent of all recent rescue operations” (EUNAVFOR MED data) were carried out by non-government organisations. Rather, these numbers highlight that the EU is not taking on their responsibility to finally fully join the rescue efforts. Private SAR organizations have to help those in need because there is no state-run support by the EU.
It is cynical to now discredit those organisation that save people at sea. Our mandate differs very clearly from that of the war ships in the area. Our crews are not deployed to disband trafficking networks but rather to provide humanitarian aid.
Contrary to Leggeri’s claims, there are no attempts to provide ways of legal immigration. The closing of the Balkan route, the EU-Turkey Deal and the training of the Libyan Coast Guard are measures aimed at preventing immigration to Europe, thereby worsening the desperate situation and insecurity of refugees. Instead of providing safe and legal ways to enter the EU, migration is being criminalized.
As civil society, we – thousands of private donors, voluntary rescuers and supporters – are defending European values by actively doing something against the appalling conditions in the Mediterranean. On the long run, taking care of people in need at Europe’s borders cannot remain the responsibility of civil society!