Last week, another shipwreck occurred in the central Mediterranean. The tragedy with over 200 presumed dead occurred precisely at a time when no civilian sea-rescuers were present in the area. Due to a lack of support by the European Union, they had to transfer rescued people to Italy themselves. “This tragedy was predictably. The EU is guilty of non-assistance to people in danger” says Sea-Watch secretary Axel Grafmanns. Yesterday alone, the Sea-Watch 2 and other civilian rescue boats could meanwhile save over 1000 shipwrecked people.
“The next major shipwreck is only a matter of time” was the warning Martin Taminiau, the director of operations of the Sea-Watch 2, uttered a week ago. Civilian rescue organisations were left to deal with the situation alone, when rescuing thousands of refugees in a large scale operation in the previous days. At the time of the shipwreck, Sea-Watch and all the other rescuers were busy transferring shipwrecked people to a safe harbour.
“The European authorities were aware that there were no rescuers present anymore. It would have been no problem to send ships to prevent the tragedy. Who does not provide assistance in emergencies and dangerous situations even though it is necessary and to be reasonably expected, is guilty of non-assistance of people in danger.” Grafamanns says quoting the penal code. “We are currently considering legal measures against those like Frontex director Fabrice Leggeri, who should be held responsible for the numerous dead.”
This is by no means a matter of resource shortages; previous rescue missions like Mare Nostrum have made this clear. The limited capacities of the state authorities are politically calculated. “If too many rescuers are present, the concept of letting people die as a way of deterring migrants does not work.” says Grafmanns. Shipwrecked rubber boats doubtlessly provide images for the planned “information campaign” of the German ministry of the interior concerning the dangers of fleeing to Europe, which is planned as part of the measures of fortifying Europe against migration.
Only recently, a study at Oxford University has found that sea rescue operations like Mare Nostrum or the civilian fleets have had no impact on the number of people attempting the dangerous crossing while reducing the mortality rates.
“Moral hypocrites and populists like the foreign minister of Austria, Sebastian Kurz, or Leggeri are tirelessly attempting to shift the blame from themselves to the NGOs. Their deliberate disinformation campaign is void of any factual base” says Grafmanns. “History will declare them guilty anyway, but we want to see if we can speed this up through the courts.” This is why this year’s Sea-Watch operations at the deadly maritime border of Europe are under the motto: #MenschenrechteKeineKompromisse.
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