Immigration routes leading refugees and immigrants to Europe aren´t new. These people pass through several countries, cross the Sahara Desert and in each mile there are so many dangers: from sex trafficking to organ sales; from hunger and thirst to labor camps (Nazism, sic!). The various migration routes lead to a common point: Libya (the reasons why Libya is the “open corridor” will be showed in another post). I invite the reader to do a little research of the human horrors that are happening there, since the reports I hear every day are to harden the heart and to lose any hope of humanity that still remaining in me (and that will be the subject of an upcoming text also).
(if you have “stomach”, see this video, which shows one of the many forms of torture practiced daily in Libya)
Those who survive this humanitarian hell and are able to launch themselves into the sea on extremely precarious boats have as their goal to reach Europe, a place that (in theory) will have their basic rights (like: Life!) respected and protected, after all, all the EU countries are signatories to the various treaties, conventions and other international instruments for the protection and defense of human rights.
According to the IOM, every 5 boats leaving Libya, only 2 are rescued. This is because the boats only reach the international waters and there they are adrift awaiting rescue. It is worth a visit of the site (Missing Migrants Project). Just last year, 3.139 people lost their lives in the middle of the Mediterranean (it is worth mentioning that these are only salvaged bodies: if you die at sea, you stay in the sea, because any kind of identification of corpses would be possible. It isn´t unusual for vessels that works on Mediterranean waters to find remains of boats and/or human beings). In other words, we are talking about the most deadly migratory route of the present time!
NGOs in the Mediterranean Sea: they are where Europe should be.
I highly praise the work of NGOs such as Save the Children, Doctors Without Borders and others, which carry out these rescues. For me, who work in ground in rescue operations as a humanitarian law operator, it is clear the human approach and care given by the operators of these organizations. While a military ship disembarked 150 people because there were 150 places to rescue, the ships of the ngos always arrive crowded with people: where there is space, they put someone, after all, a life is a life.
However, from some months now, we have witnessed a controversial tightening of European and, above all, Italian policies regarding the activities of the NGOs, making landing licenses more difficult, requiring the signing of absurd codes of conduct that hampered their performance by 100%, hindering financing. There is also a change in the orientation of Italian foreign policy, with a curious approach to the belligerent groups in Libya.
After signing treaties, in May 2017, for military cooperation with groups battling for power in Libya, the Italian government is paying them to take care of blocking the exit of immigrants in order to avoid their rescue on the high seas and, consequently, their arrival. This process of ” “externalization of borders” has an aggravating factor: the Italian government knows of the degrading conditions and the humanitarian crisis that occurs in Libya, with reports of the sale of human beings in the open market, torture of the most varied types.
It is estimated that more than 1 million people are waiting in Libya ready to continue their search for freedom, subjected to torture, slavery, rape, etc. In other words: Italian public money is not only financing a war on the other side of the Mediterranean, but also condemning other human beings (who have nothing to do with this dispute and who try to escape from their countries for other reasons as hard as or worse) to situations like the above video or to the death.
NGO OpenArms and last week’s rescue
One of the NGOs that has been involved in this search and rescue work at sea is the OpenArms, from Spain.
During this past week, 218 people (mostly women and children) were saved in extremely critical health situations in a boat that, a few more minutes, would have sunk killing everyone on board. Already in international waters, after the rescue operation, Libyan navy ships approached and demanded the transfer of the women and children rescued, who would be returned in Libya, under penalty of open fire on the high seas. It was a time of a big tension in which the ngo was only saving lives and the Libyan navy was trying to do what it was paid for by Italy: blocking immigration.
Fortunately none of the people were delivered and all were kept under the protection of the Spanish ship. It turns out that the case took on great proportions and after 3 days the supplies of medicine and food were already depleting. When asked for permission to land at one of the Italian ports in Sicily, since they are the closest to where it happened, they received negative responses from the Italian port authorities. Only with the appeal of the Spanish government, they were allowed to land the 218 lives in Pozallo, a port 40km from where I am.
Wow! What a situation!!!
But… Do you think it’s over there? Today I am surprised by the following news:
(“Seized ship ProActiva Open Arms: the accusation is of criminal association”)
The Attorney General carry off the NGO’s ship and denounced the members of OpenArms for “Gang Training aimed at favoring illegal immigration.” According to the prosecution, by not delivering them to the Libyan navy, the NGO was “complicit” with the illegal immigration of these people.
That is, NGOs that have the noble task of saving lives in the middle of the sea criminalized for doing well their works (tasks that could/should be done by the European military). This is one of the many absurdities I have observed here and I wrote without any theoretical/linguistic/methodological rigor; I wrote only with indignation that violates my heart.Now come back and wacth again this video.
How long saving lives will be a crime?