As the rescue vessel MV Sea-Watch 3 heads to the search and rescue zone off Libya, the NGO joined other international organisations Open Arms and Project Mediterranea to condemn the EU’s funding of third countries – including dictatorships and militias – to prevent refugees and migrants from entering Europe.
Rescue vessels as well as a reconnaissance aircraft had been unlawfully detained in Malta for almost four months, while the death rate in the Mediterranean rose to a record high.
While arrivals have dropped significantly in recent months, according to a report by the Italian Institute for International Political Studies, one in five people drowned in September in an attempt to flee across the central Mediterranean.
“A figure that is directly linked to the impediment of civilian rescue workers and the transfer of European responsibility to the so-called Libyan Coast Guard,” the NGOs said in a statement.
The fleet of three ships from three countries, supported by the Moonbird reconnaissance aircraft, is a civil society response to the EU’s “deadly isolation policy” and will carry out a joint search and rescue operation in the central Mediterranean to document human rights violations.
Together with the Spanish organisation Open Arms and the Italian partner project Mediterranea, MV Sea-Watch 3 returns to the search and rescue zone off Libya. “Previously, the ship had been unlawfully detained in Malta for almost four months, while the death rate in the Mediterranean rose to a record high”.
“In view of the declining number of arrivals, the issue is not whether Europe can cope with the numbers, but whether Europe can still muster enough humanity to simply prevent people from drowning,” said Johannes Bayer, Head of Operations on the MV Sea-Watch 3.
In a joint appeal, the organisations condemned the EU’s funding of third countries as well as the associated violations of human and fundamental rights and of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea.
They also said they strongly rejected the growing criminalisation campaign against migrants and refugees, “which has developed into a governmental and judicial strategy that makes the defence of humanity and solidarity a criminal offence”.
“We do not want to live in a Europe that has turned its maritime border into a mass grave as a deterrent and has its Libyan bouncers do the dirty work… As long as the EU lets people drown in the Mediterranean, we will continue to go to sea,” Bayers said.