Human Rights at Sea - Investigation

HRAS Commentary on the ongoing central mediterranean situation

HRAS Commentary

Monday 9 July 2018 

 “We could have done something,”

– Taking the conscious political decision of leaving persons to drown or suffer from abuse

London.UK. Corpses are discovered on Northern African shores, over 600 persons are now missing and feared dead because they embarked on the journey of the deadliest crossing in the world: The Central Mediterranean Sea. Humanitarian NGO vessels are currently being stopped from operating offshore Libya. Since, many hundreds of people are drowning at European borders and the world is horrifically looking at the lifeless bodies of children not older than three because of a conscious European decision of not supporting European rescue operations.  It appears that Europe has lost the North of it’s moral compass, and we will have to share these events with the future generations who will be studying this shameful episode of European history.

Low rescue capacity while there is certainty of distress calls

Last week, rescued by Libyan Coastguards, 16 survivors of a ship of over 120 persons have been transferred to detention centres in Libya where the conditions and human rights situation is still unclear. Today, humanitarian rescue ships are asked by European officials to ignore distress calls while they are operating in the area so that they can knowingly wait for the persons in distress to be rescued by Libyan Coastguards and be sent back to a country where their safety and human rights cannot be ensured.[1] These requests have deadly consequences, human lives that are placed in conditions that most people on the Northern hemisphere would not be able to bear.

Out of sight, out of mind? MEPs leave their comfort zones to confront reality

Many forget that the people desperately attempting to cross the Central Mediterranean Sea are human beings who have family lives, ambitions, and nothing but the will to ensure that their children have access to the best opportunities to guarantee them a better life. In 2018, there have been 2,125 migrant deaths throughout the world, 1,412 of which occurred in the Mediterranean.[2]How could we let this happen?

The political decisions that have been taken during the past weeks have deadly consequences of which all Europeans should be ashamed of. Recently, Members of the European Parliament have refused to submit themselves and their political power to this.  They have boarded some of the humanitarian NGO ships to see the reality with their own eyes and share this knowledge with their colleagues- It is not an out of sight, out of mind question anymore.

NGO vessels stopped from carrying out SAR missions

While Italy and Malta are closing their ports to humanitarian ships to the humanitarian vessel “Astral”, the captain of the “Lifeline” is accused of violating maritime law, the “Sea-Watch 3” is stranded in Malta, and many other obstacles are being set for NGOs so that they cannot fulfil their mane duty: Filling in a gap so that lives can be saved at sea.

EU exposing dirty laundry while people are drowning

People are still dying offshore Libya. This is a certainty. And while rescue is being denied to those in distress, the EU is not taking advantage of the opportunity to adequately revise the Dublin Regulation.  Rather it fuels existing cleavages by taking a chance at ignoring the Geneva Convention and setting the conditions for further violation of humanitarian and human rights law. At the same time, the EU is seeking  opportunity to open migrant processing centres in Northern Africa[3] following the Australian model.

Since 2015, persons rescued from flimsy rubber boats in the central Mediterranean Sea have been victims of torture, extorsion, abuse and other unhuman treatments. This should be a sufficient reason to provide refuge for these persons risking their lives to get out of inhumane conditions and poverty. Babies found dead on a beach in Libya are the consequence of decisions taken at an international level of which we should all be ashamed of. A parent does not risk the life of a child to fuel European political extremism. Should there have been appropriate rescue structures in place, these children could have had opportunities for bright futures. Instead, conscious and appalling decisions have been made to not only denying it to them, but to deny their right to life.

As UNHCR Special Envoy for the central Mediterranean, Mr. Vincent Cochetel, mentioned in a tweet last Saturday, if we lose our capacity to be outraged by such tragedies, we will lose the right to call ourselves human beings.





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