European institutions have once again proven their incapability of handling the responsibility to safeguard the rights of people rescued at their deadly sea border. Neither any of the European States nor the EU commission were willing to enforce what is the basis of their constitutions – human dignity. With yesterday’s political ruling furthermore the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) failed to provide any expedient for the 42 survivors stuck aboard the rescue ship Sea-Watch 3. Their situation is now more desperate than ever. As a result, today at noon, the captain was forced to enter Italian territorial waters under emergency law.
“No European institution is willing to take responsibility and to uphold human dignity at Europe’s border in the Mediterranean. This is why we have to take the responsibility ourselves. We enter Italian waters as there are no other options left to ensure the safety of our guests whose basic rights have been violated for long enough,” says Johannes Bayer, chairman of Sea-Watch. “The guarantee of human rights must not be conditional to a passport or to any EU negotiations, they have to be indivisible.”
“We have people on board that have gone through horrors in Libya, that have been heavily tortured, but even if this was not the case, any person rescued at sea, by law has to be brought to a place of safety. These are people with basic needs and basic rights. A rescue operation is not finished until every single person rescued has both feet on the ground,” says Haidi Sadik, cultural mediator on the Sea-Watch 3.
The initially 53 people had been rescued on June 12 from a rubber boat in international waters. Later that day, in an unprecedented attempt to make Sea-Watch complicit in a grave human rights violation, the so-called Libyan Coast Guard had named Tripoli as a POS (supposed to mean: place of safety) and asked the ship to illegally transport the survivors back to Libya. Italian minister Matteo Salvini, who quite seriously demanded Sea-Watch to follow the Libyan instructions, even prompted a reaction from the EU commission stating: “All ships sailing under an EU flag are obliged to comply with international law when it comes to search and rescue, which includes the need to take rescued people to a safe place. The Commission has always said that these conditions do not currently exist in Libya.” However, the Commission did not give any indications as to where an actual safe place for disembarkation might be.
This incident was followed by a now 14 days long standoff in front of the closest safe port to the position of the rescue, Lampedusa. Italy denied the ship entry and even hastily implemented a new decree of the interior ministry threatening Sea-Watch with absurd fines and criminal prosecution. In the course of this standoff, Italian authorities disembarked 10 of the survivors on medical grounds on June 15, and emergency evacuated one more on June 21 – leaving 42 others on board, including 3 unaccompanied minors, the youngest of which 12 years old. 36 of those remaining subsequently filed a “Rule 39” appeal for interim measures at the European Court of Human Rights, which was denied on June 25.
“The ECHRs decision in January was spiritless. This one is the court’s unconditional capitulation to Europe’s right-wing anti-migration policy.” says Bayer, referring to a previous Rule 39 appeal by Sea-Watch 3 rescuees. “If this situation, including indefinite unlawful detention on our ship and deprivation of most basic necessities, is not violating our guest’s human rights, then what is? We can not wait until every single one becomes a medical emergency by time.”