Those creating refugees are the criminals, not those helping refugees
AKEL C.C. Press Office, 1 July 2019, Nicosia
The action by Carola Rachete, activist and captain of the Sea-Watch 3 boat, to defy the threats and bans issued by the far-right Italian Minister Salvini and subsequently dock in Lampedusa with her ship carrying 40 refugees exhausted by thirst and hunger from the Mediterranean, raises high the bar of a humane approach in the modern world. Her boldness should have been a global example and not be subject to persecution by the Italian authorities. The absurdity is outrageous. Instead of apologizing to those who cause the waves of refugee and those who refuse to take on their share of responsibility for accommodating refugees, all those who are expressing practical humanitarian solidarity with refugees are being prosecuted.
This is a new case in the attempt by the Right and far-right effort in Europe to criminalize the provision of humanitarian assistance to refugees who are at risk in the sea. This policy constitutes an inhuman and immoral practice which in fact violates international law as well. The increasing persecution and repression of those who rescue refugees from the sea has already had tragic results. According to figures released by the International Organization for Migration, in spite of the fact that the number of arrivals of refugees to Europe has fallen recently, the macabre proportion of deaths – due precisely to the sea tragedies – has increased.
However, it isn’t only Salvini and the European extreme-right who are guilty. The EU bears enormous responsibilities. Just a few days ago, the European Commission refused to clarify its position as to whether or not it agrees with Italy’s decision to impose fines on those who rescue refugees. The EU, with its policies, is building the “Fortress Europe” with a web of measures, mechanisms, and agreements with authoritarian regimes to contain refugees in modern concentration camps, and with armies of border guards to halt boats instead of search and rescue operations. The EU’s current legal framework – in particular, as expressed in the EU Facilitation Directive – does not effectively separate traffickers who exploit refugees from people and organizations that selflessly and often at the risk of their own lives rescue refugees in danger.
Every day, it is confirmed that the expression of grief and indignation for the ongoing human tragedies of immigrants in Europe, the United States and around the world is not enough. A struggle against the extreme right, its policies and rhetoric is demanded. A struggle for solidarity and humane treatment towards refugees and immigrants.