27 APRIL 2018
London. Human Rights at Sea is closely watching the ongoing situation in the central Mediterranean route, and is deeply concerned with the restrictive asylum policies of the European Union and the general securitisation and criminalisation of search and rescue at sea. What we are witnessing is push backs operations of asylum seekers and other migrants to Libya, and the seizure of NGOs’ search and rescue vessels against a background of a rising death toll in the central Mediterranean route.
A month after the seizure of the NGO Proactiva Open Arms in March 2018 by the Italian authorities in Sicilia during a search and rescue operation, the First Criminal Section of the Cassation Court in Rome rejects the objection by the Jugend Rettet e.V to the seizure of the search and rescue vessel IUVENTA. Despite the lack of evidence for the allegations against the organization on the grounds of abetting illegal migration, the court decided against the release and the IUVENTA is banned from operating until further notice.
You can read the full press release of the Jugend Rettet here
Search and rescue NGOs like the German-based Sea Watch continue to report on the appalling conditions of the detention of migrants and asylum seekers in Libya. The most recent rescue operation of Sea Watch 3 on Saturday, witnessed the arrival of the Libyan Coast Guard with the stated intention to forcibly return 94 people on board the rubber boat to Libya. Sea Watch 3 distributed life jackets and managed in the end to disembark to a place of safety all 94 people.
Human Rights at Sea strongly condemns the EU external asylum policy that compromises the humanitarian purpose of search and rescue in the name of border controls. Push backs operations of boat migrants to Libya where there have been serious allegations of human rights abuses and torture amount to refoulement and violate international law.
Criminalising civil society’s search and rescue operations and seizing the vessels will not solve the challenge at the central Mediterranean route. The right to life and the duty to save lives at sea rests primarily upon the member States of the European Union and it cannot be circumscribed under any circumstances, including border control.
Human Rights at Sea understands that migration and forced displacement in the European Union need be managed in a comprehensive way that respects the human rights of all migrants, asylum seekers and refugees and in a way that does not obstruct access to asylum or other form of international protection for those who need it.