Sea-Watch in the Aegean
In Autumn 2015 Sea-Watch started their rescue operations with speedboats off the shore of Lesbos/Greece. Within only 5 months almost 4,000 people in distress had been rescued. The number of refugees decreased heavily after the EU-Turkey Deal was put in place in March 2016 and we moved our local engagement and our speedboats into stand-by. This mode allows our teams to immediately return to active operations in case of any changes within the political framework.
However, shattering news and information has been reaching us time and again from our network of local activists and our intensive exchange with NGOs on the Greek islands. This includes news about the refugee camps in Lesbos and Chios and dangerous manoeuvres at sea, where Greek and Turkish Coast Guards are operating besides Frontex.
Refugees refer to attempts to capsize their boats to intimidate people on their flight to Greece. Meanwhile, the shores of the European Union have been militarized like never before. NATO warships and Frontex units patrol next to Greek and Turkish Coast Guards at sea. Police, military and Europol are active on the Greek Islands, and their number has increased heavily over the last month, illustrating the explosiveness of the situation. In addition, the work and efforts of the NGOs at sea have been regimented and hindered since October 2016 by the Greek authorities.
For this reason, Sea-Watch has decided to restart its activities in summer 2017 and return with a “Monitoring Mission Aegean” to observe and document the massive impact of the EU-Turkey-Deal on human rights and its violations. It is our goal to improve the situation for refugees on land and at sea with the support of our local partners.
The dangerous escape route from Turkey to Greece is still being used despite the agreement. For this reason the EU-Turkey Deal implementation demands critical monitoring by the public, especially because refugees frequently drown during their attempt to reach Greek shores.
The rescue operations at sea in the Aegean are being initiated by the European Border Control Agency Frontex and Greek Coast Guards. We are interested in their successful work and the cases where room for improvement can be identified. Only an active and present civil society is able to ensure that humanitarian standards are being met and abuses are being uncovered.
We strive for a dialogue with the governmental rescuers on an equal footing to initiate improvements within rescue operations, and to search for solutions that will improve the degrading conditions in the refugee camps on the islands.
We want to move the media perspective back to the Turkey-Greece escape route, because the EU-Turkey Deal did not make things better or safer for refugees. The camps and hotspots are constantly the focus of criticism, due to their catastrophic supply problems and the degrading general conditions of living. The overall situation does not receive the required attention or the requested response from the EU which this disastrous humanitarian crisis of refugees in the Aegean badly needs.
The “Monitoring Mission Aegean” will keep a close eye on the actions of all authorities involved and the invisible ‘European wall’, but it will also focus on the support of projects and initiatives of volunteers and NGOs present on the islands who tirelessly fight for humanity.