The humanitarian situation in the central Mediterranean has become dramatically worse: Although in recent weeks more people have tried to flee from Libya, almost all active sea rescue vessels are currently detained due to absurd allegations. Consequently, there is no civilian sea rescue vessel present in the Mediterranean.
Alleged safety deficiencies to prevent rescue operations
Once again, civil sea rescue organisations are being hindered from leaving port due to absurd justifications to prevent rescued persons from arriving in Europe by all means. Such allegations include, for example, that an organisation would negligently pollute the environment because there is no quantity sticker visible on its dustbins. At the same time, several organisations are accused of carrying more “passengers” after rescues than is stated in their ship’s papers. Among the ships blocked by the authorities are those of the German NGOs Sea-Eye and Sea-Watch, as well as the European NGO SOS MEDITERRANEE. The organisations are calling for the immediate release of the detained civilian rescue vessels that are being prevented from operating, so that they can leave the port again as soon as possible.
Humanitarian scandal caused by EU failure
In the last eight weeks alone, Sea-Watch’s civil reconnaissance aircrafts have documented over 2,100 people in distress in the central Mediterranean Sea. In many of these cases, the people were brought back to Libya by the so-called Libyan Coast Guard in violation of international law. On July 26th, three refugees were killed in Libya during a shooting, who were previously brought back by the so-called Libyan Coast Guard. The European rescue coordination centres have repeatedly failed to fulfil their obligation to coordinate maritime rescue operations and to provide refugees with a safe harbour. European authorities have accepted that hundreds of people have drowned in the Mediterranean in the past few months. The events of recent weeks show the need for civilian sea rescue vessels on scene – their targeted blockade is causing the situation to deteriorate further.
Marie Naass, Head of Advocay, Sea-Watch: “The accusations are absurd. While people are drowning, we are accused of having too many life jackets on board. It is a scandal that the member states of the European Union have failed for years to support the southern European countries. However, the solution to the lack of EU support for Italy cannot be the recent harassment of civil sea rescue organisations, but the immediate implementation of a European migration policy based on solidarity.”
Jana Ciernioch, SOS MEDITERRANEE: “For years we have had to witness how policies are made on the back of people seeking protection. The detention of civilian rescue ships is the latest attempt by an EU state to reduce arrivals in Europe during the summer months. This tactic of preventing rescued people from being brought to Europe is cynical and inhumane.”
Julian Pahlke, spokesman of Sea-Eye e. V.: “During the last EU elections, the leading candidates Manfred Weber and Katharina Barley called with drums and trumpets for an EU rescue programme and a solidarity solution for refugees crossing the Mediterranean Sea. More than a year later, the EU has still not found a common answer, while the unworthy and deadly game with human lives continues and civilian rescue ships are once again detained.”
In view of the current situation, Sea-Eye, Sea-Watch and SOS MEDITERRANEE call on the European authorities to release the ships immediately so that they can return to operations. In this context, the German Federal Government is called upon to use its EU Council Presidency for the long overdue introduction of a solidarity-based European relocation mechanism for rescued people and a European-coordinated sea rescue operation. The European authorities must take responsibility now!