“Save a life, and you save the whole world.”
Sea-Watch has saved the lives of around 27,000 people since June 2015. Every individual person was alone worth the effort undertaken by our many volunteers. This year in particular, it is becoming increasingly difficult to carry out our humanitarian mission. Libya, a land in the grip of civil war, is being closed off so that escape is impossible. The German interior minister gave support to this violation of international law by praising the return of refugees and migrants to a country where they are threatened by torture and slavery . European warships are patrolling Libyan waters in order to prevent people fleeing and sending them back to desperate suffering .
The situation has been escalating in the last few days. Sea-Watch was pressurised to sign a so-called ‘Code of Conduct’ of the Italian government, which the Research and Documentation Services of the German parliament declared to be illegal . Since the refusal to sign this illegal document , we have been threatened with consequences by Italy.
The Libyan Coastguard and navy, supported by the EU, are openly threatening military action against NGO ships in a Search and Rescue zone previously proclaimed by Tripoli. This means an arbitrary and illegal extension of Libyan territorial waters. European politicians are applauding this crude violation of international law.
These are troubling times indeed when it is not allowing people to drown but saving them which is considered threatening and illegal. It is a scandal that a European confederation of states, along with its members, not only fails to provide sufficient resources to rescue people themselves, but even make rescues impossible and fights against them with all its strength.
Our room for manoeuvre is becoming smaller and smaller. We are currently preparing the Sea-Watch 3 for its first rescue operation and wanted to set sail in a few weeks. How far we are able to actually carry out our humanitarian mission and save lives under these deteriorating circumstances is currently under serious question. We will examine closely whether the safety of our crew is at stake and whether we can continue to operate at all under these conditions.
The German government must prevent a militia which it supports from expressing a public intention to break international law and commit violence against aid organisations. At the very least, cooperation with the Libyan Coastguard must be put on ice until it takes back its threats against maritime rescue organisations and declares itself ready to keep to the internationally-applicable Law of the Sea and the Geneva Conventions. Human rights are for everyone, regardless of where they are, where they come from, and the colour of their skin.
We will continue to take a stand for maritime rescue and safe legal passage for those who are fleeing to the European Union. No-one should have to die in distress at sea. Fleeing is not a crime.
Board and CEO of Sea-Watch e.V.