Looking at the figures, the Central Mediterranean route is considered the world’s deadliest route.
As Gabriele del Grande has been reminding us for years, the middle sea has become “a big mass grave, amid the indifference on both the shores of the middle sea“. The estimated deaths in the last twenty years are almost 40 thousand. An average of 5 shattered lives per day, broken by a securitarian ideology focused on fortifying the walls of Fortress Europe rather than on opening safe routes, humanitarian channels, and legal entries in order to ensure safe landing and freedom of movement to all the human beings.
In order to reach the Old Continent, migrants have no other choice than put their lives into the hands of smugglers, roll the dice, and try to cross the Mediterranean. They take off from North African countries, mostly from the Libyan hell.
Last year, following the progressive decrease in EU search and rescue (SAR) operations, a new record in the number of deaths at sea has been reached. Shipwrecks have been increasing since November 2014, when Italy dismissed its operation Mare Nostrum and the EU decided to adopt a policy of culpable negligence. We all remember the 1200 victims of the shipwrecks of April 12th and 18th 2015. These numerous massacres are the reason why NGOs started patrolling the Central Mediterranean Sea. Thousands of lives have been saved from a certain death ever since.
Even though NGOs’ activity is a basic humanitarian response to EU’s cynical and irresponsible negligence, in the past few months they became targets of multiple attacks coming from individuals whose only interest was to gain notoriety and poll numbers.
An array of lies, smears and slanders aimed at falsifying the reality and spreading the toxic narrative of a collusion between smugglers, NGOs, and Italy’s reception system. Vicious attacks that are totally unfounded, yet largely spread by the media circus. Despicably, NGOs have been considered as a pull factor, thus blamed for the increasingly cheaper boats and the increasing numbers of shipwrecks.
By making such allegations in its reports, Frontex is largely responsible for this cleverly-crafted misleading information and for legitimizing ruthless politicians. Instead of focusing on how to improve SAR activities, these jackals are questioning the very legitimacy of life-saving operations.
In a situation like this, made even more toxic by Italy’s never-ending electoral campaign, Italy’s government officially declared it is planning to prevent any humanitarian ship flying a flag other than the Italian from docking at Italian ports. Following International Conventions, NGOs have so far disembarked the rescued castaways in the “closest safe port”: apart from being foolish and discriminating, closing Italy’s ports would have no legal base and would break international treaties.
Not only do NGOs save human lives, they are also an independent eye monitoring what happens in the Mediterranean, particularly near Libyan waters. While Brussels tries to erase the problem of immigration by preventing migrants from leaving Libya – and for that purpose Italy is currently providing means and training to the criminals of the Libyan coastguard – the NGOs’ monitoring work denounced many Libyan coastguard’s armed interventions and illegal refoulements, as well as the EU’s gradual withdrawal from the rescue naval mission.
In this particularly sensitive time, it is extremely important to back up NGOs’ work and support their activity. Our solidarity must not be limited to posting a press release or a tweet with a catchy hashtag, therefore we’ve asked them to allow us on board.
We got in touch with our German friends of the Jugend Rettet. We met them in Venice on the 27th of February while organizing the “Build Bridges, Not Walls” initiative. Thanks to a crowdfunding campaign, they could buy a vessel and cover all the expenses.
“As young Europeans, we can’t – and we don’t want to – accept the status quo of EU’s asylum policies”, they said on the 24th of July 2016, during the launch of the vessel Iuventa. They have rescued and saved more than 6500 human beings ever since.
From July 24th to August 7th in the Central Mediterranean
In the past few days, Jugend Rettet’s and Sea Watch ’s vessels have been struggling: they picked up as many people as possible, yet they were still surrounded by boats in distress, many of whom carrying children and pregnant women as well.
We will get on board of the Iuventa on tiptoes, to offer our independent point of view on what is happening in the Mediterranean. Our multimedia reports will be published on meltingpot.org.
We will offer a point of view that is neither invasive nor sensationalist, neither flattening nor simplifying or stereotyping the complexity of migrants’ lives and subjectivities. Our goal is to not separate the rescue from the early steps of the migration, with its causes, desires and dreams. At the same time we commit to not participate in a flattening and victimizing narrative of the migration.
Quite the opposite, we will do our best to have a careful and thorough eye, aware that NGOs will leave the Mediterranean only if the borders will be opened, only if safe passages to Europe will be created.
Saving lives at sea is today a dire necessity, and it is nothing more than the most visible effect of the EU’s anti-migrant policies.