For 16 days the Search and Rescue ship, Sea Watch 3, was stuck in the Mediterranean, during a heat wave, after rescuing 53 migrants drifting on an inflatable raft off the coast of Libya. The captain of the rescue ship, Carola Rackete, was unjustly arrested by the Italian authorities after having forced the ship into Italian waters to bring the migrants to safety. She is now facing up to 5 years in prison, accused of "facilitating illegal immigration" and a fine of 15.000 euros for each person rescued.
This is just another example of how our right to help people is being criminalized and people from civil society organizations are being arrested, fined and intimidated all across Europe for simply offering humanitarian assistance to people fleeing persecution. Just three days ago two ships - Alan Kurdi and Alex - on rescuing missions found themselves in clashes with EU member states to get a safe haven. This cannot be part of the "European values" that are spoken so highly of.
On Tuesday 16 July, a new EU Commission president will be voted by the Members of the European Parliament (MEPs). This is a crucial moment for real change in Europe. As European citizens we demand our elected MEPs to vote against a Commission President who is not committed to re-establish a new European Sea search and rescue mission in the Mediterranean Sea.
In particular, we call on the new Commission President to commit to:
- Strive to open safe and legal channels for migrants and re-establish an efficient European Sea search and rescue mission;
- Stop punishing volunteers and civil society organisations for saving and rescuing people fleeing persecution, poverty and human rights abuse in the Mediterranean Sea;
- Reform the Dublin Regulation to establish an asylum policy based on solidarity, on humanity and an orderly process, including the fair sharing of responsibilities among Member States;
- Suspend any kind of EU-support to the Libyan coastguard and ensure that people rescued are not sent back to Libya as this should not be considered a safe country.