Sea-Watch will soon commence missions with the Sea-Watch 3. The Sea-Watch 3 is the first boat of the Sea-Watch fleet that is capable of bringing rescued people to a safe harbor itself. In order to avoid the risk of an arbitrary confiscation of our boat, as in the case of the IUVENTA of Jugend Rettet, Sea-Watch has once again negotiated the controversial Code of Conduct with the Italian government. Sea-Watch has actually managed to come to an agreement with the Ministry of the Interior in Rome, that made it possible for us to sign the Code of Conduct with an extra addendum, which addresses the critical points.
Sea-Watch appreciates the efforts of Italy in the central Mediterranean. No other European country has been involved in a comparable way as Italy, whose Coastguards and Navy have saved thousands of people in distress at sea. For this, Italy deserves respect. On the other hand, we strongly criticize the attempt to close the central Mediterranean route at all costs, including the potential support of push-backs by the Libyan coast guard in violation of international law. The human rights commissary of the European Council has already demanded clarification in this concern through the Italian government.
The version of a Code of Conduct suggested by the Italian Ministry of the Interior in July also contained several points, which were at odds with international law according to the Scientific Services of the German Bundestag. In its initial version, it would eventually have lead to a weakening of the rescue capacities in the central Mediterranean. Meanwhile, the arbitrary confiscation of the IUVENTA due to flimsy accusations only two days after the failed negotiations in July, shows the consequences a refusal to sign the Code can have.
This is why we are glad that the Italian Ministry of the Interior was now ready to work on a common solution, that calms the situation for the benefit of the refugees and migrants. Furthermore, there is now an agreement we can refer to after a potential change of government in Italy after the elections in spring.
For this, it was necessary to clarify some central points that prevented us from signing in July: Our friends from SOS Mediterranée had already been able to insist on a similar addendum, as the one now signed by Sea-Watch founder Harald Höppner. Among other things, it clarifies that police officers must not be allowed to infringe upon the UNCLOS provisions, “other applicable international law, the competences of the captain” etc. Initially, there was talk of allowing armed police officers to come on board at any time. Considering the so called Libyan Coastguard we have made it clear that we are not required to follow their instructions unless we are wither the 12 mile zone. Previously, there were concerns that the Code could force us to cooperate with the so called Libyan Coastguard in conducting push-backs in violation of international law.
After this agreement, we confidently look toward a future of seamless cooperation with the Italian authorities. At the same time, we urge the EU to finally work on real solutions to the humanitarian crisis on the Mediterranean, also in order to unburden Italy. Europe needs to decide between human rights and migration control.