WatchTheMed Alarm Phone Statement in light of the current situation in the Mediterranean Sea and yesterday’s events:
The EU and Death at Sea: The calculated and monitored dying in the Central Mediterranean
Yesterday, on Thursday the 26th of May, it took more than four hours for rescue vessels to arrive. Four hours of worrying and of attempts to support the anxious people on board of an overcrowded wooden boat. In a SOS call at 6.21am, our WatchTheMed Alarm Phone shift team passed on the GPS coordinates to the Italian Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) in Rome. Shortly before, an emergency call had reached us via a satellite phone. The caller informed us about two boats carrying 500 people each, among them many Syrian and Iraqi refugees. At 10.31am, rescue finally approached but an hour earlier, the second boat had already capsized, within eyeshot. So far it is unclear how many people drowned or disappeared. MRCC Rome reported in their daily statement about one capsized boat and 96 survivors. Fatalities were not mentioned. However, the private rescue boat Sea-Watch, which arrived at the site of distress in the early afternoon, had to recover bodies of drowned people.
Over the past three days, and once again, thousands of refugees and migrants left the Libyan shores on overcrowded boats and moved toward Sicily: About 2600 people on Tuesday, 3000 on Wednesday and 4000 yesterday, Thursday. Nobody can still claim to be surprised, least of all those responsible for EU migration policies. But they refuse to abolish the deadly visa regime and to open up legal and safe routes. To
the contrary: the Balkan route which migration movements had struggled to open up last summer, was violently closed down. Among yesterday’s victims in the Central Mediterranean Sea are now again Syrian and Iraqi refugees. As a result of the closure of the Balkanroute and the inhumane EU-Turkey deal, refugees who arrive in Greece are being imprisoned on the Greek islands with the threat of being deported back to Turkey, while those on the Greek mainland are left without any perspective of leaving the country soon. These political changes force refugees onto the much more dangerous route via Libya.
For nearly one year now, the military operation EUNVFOR MED/Sophia seeks to monitor the Central Mediterranean Sea, between Libya and Italy. Its central mandate is the combating of the so-called smuggling networks. These ‘smuggler-hunters’ are equipped with all sorts of high-tech, the zone off the coast of Libya is amongst the best monitored maritime spaces of the world. How difficult could it be to send a small
surveillance aircraft hourly along this well-known migration route in order to locate and immediately rescue refugee boats? Instead, and again and again, Italian coastguards, private initiatives and NGOs are those
who prevent even worse disasters from occurring at sea. And when they then transport survivors to Sicily, capacities are simply lacking which means that situations as experienced yesterday occur, situations that
are apparently wanted by the responsible authorities: the dying at sea continues. And as long as it is possible, disasters are being concealed, suppressed or played down in order to avoid renewed public outcries.
We do cry out, once more and time and again about the border deaths of the past 20 years, and about yesterday’s deaths. If only there were legal and safe migration routes, nobody would have to die at sea. The
dying at sea is not a natural catastrophe and also no accident. It is, in fact, the calculated outcome of the EU border and visa regime. The dying at sea is human-made and already tomorrow, through the opening of
borders and free access to ferries, it could fade into history as a dark chapter.
The long summer of migration in the Balkans has demonstrated that once borders are open, there are no ‘smugglers’ anymore. One pays high sums and takes dangerous paths only when one is forced to do so by Frontex and co.
A world without borders is possible and both Frontex and the ‘smugglers’ would then have disappeared.
In this sense, we say: Ferries not Frontex
WatchTheMed Alarm Phone (27.05.2016)
I am here since two weeks and two days. We were the first people that came here. We came here on the 19th, before the deal with Turkey. But we were 46 people who came here and to 42 they gave the registration paper to go to the city. But us four people, they left us out here and we were asking them why did they left us here and all of them don’t talked to us. Because we are black, that’s why. If we call them to talk to them, they don’t talk to us, they keep on doing that, for three days or four days. I saw a lady, she was asking questions to them about our story, then she was trying to help us. I don’t know if the police later caught her. Since that day we have never seen her no more. If we try to talk to the police, nobody wants to talk to us, we don’t know if it is because of our color or something like that.
And since yesterday, they closed here and we can’t go out and they are treating us like we are not human beings. Even today they wanted to give us food at two o´clock but we didn’t get it until four o´clock. They don’t care about us. Then if there is fighting among the people in front of the police, they let us, don’t come. The people are scared. If they really want us to stay here they should send us back to our country. Because if they take us back they take us back to Turkey and this is not a good thing. Because Turkey is not a good country, they don’t like blacks. If you are a black person in the streets, they just come to you with a gun. When I lived there, in Turkey, I was fighting with one in my room. He came to my house with a knife and told me, if I don’t give him my money he will kill me. I gave him my money. Then the next day he came again and took all of our clothes and my passport. Here it is not good for us. We don’t know whether it is because of our color.
This bracelet that they gave us when we arrived is the proof that we came before the 19th. But we told it to the police. They said they know about it but they said they can’t do anything. The manager of the asylum here told us we have to apply for asylum in Greece so we applied and now we are waiting what will happen. Because of the asylum process, two of our friends ran away. They were scared and said they didn’t understand why they keep us here.
Foto: Ufuk Atasoy
Refugee Movement Journey to Greece
We, a group of -so called- refugee activists, are traveling through Greece for two weeks, from the 24th of March to the 8th of April. to meet people on the ground. We will also have info panels on the bus, displaying maps and legal advices about Greece, the destination and transit countries. Most of us have also experienced the situation of coming to Germany as a refugee and are able to share this with people who aim at going there.