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Mann mit Bart erzählt Leuten etwas

Action day human rights

„We rescuers have been criminalised!“

Ruben Neugebauer (Sea-Watch) reports on the deaths of boat refugees

  Jürgen Castendyk | 17.12.2018

https://sea-watch.org/" Active for human rights!“ is the name of the workshop- and the day of action on 24.11. in the Freizeitheim Linden. The invitation came from the alliance „Menschenrechte grenzenlos“.( human rights without limits) . After the welcome address by Laura Heda (kargah e. V.) the spokepersons from the four working groups introduced themselves.

1. Human rights between democracy and hypocrisy

2. Human rights and social work und in the context of the integration regime

3. Active against the isolation of Europe

4. Civil activism in Syria

Failure of the EU at the rescue

The focus of the third working group was the paper by Ruben Neugebauer. He is co-founder and activist of Sea-Watch (www.sea-watch.org). Neugebauer has established a link between the failure of EU state rescue operations in the Mediterranean and the creation of Sea-Watch. When the Italian naval operation Mare Nostrum for the rescue of boat refugees in 2015 expired for cost reasons, the association Sea-Watch was founded in Berlin. Through funds from the founders, the cutter, the Sea-Watch 1, was bought and converted to a rescue ship in Hamburg. "During the first rescue operations off the Turkish coast, it turned out that the cutter was too small to accommodate the many refugees. And he had no infirmary. "Neugebauer described the problems with the first rescue operations. Despite the difficulties, the ship saved over 2,000 boat refugees from certain death.

Italy and Malta close their ports for boat people

The treaty between Turkey and the EU to repel boat refugees changed also for Neugebauer the tasks of Sea-Watch. The new operational area became the western Mediterranean. The Sea-Watch 2, a former fisheries research vessel, saved thousands of boat people travelling between the Libyan coast and the island of Malta in 2016/2017. As EU countries bordering the Mediterranean increasingly closed their ports to rescue vessels, this ship was also too small. The Sea-Watch 2 could not supply hundreds of boat people for long periods of time on board. In early 2018, Sea-Watch 3 was acquired by Doctors Without Borders. As the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) ceased air traffic control in 2017, Sea-Watch chartered a sports aircraft stationed on the Tunisian coast. Neugebauer himself sat on the plane and passed on the postions of the refugee boats to the rescue ship and Frontex. Under pressure from the EU, the plane was banned by the Tunisian authorities in the same year.

Menschen mit Blöcken und Stiften
Menschen mit Blöcken und Stiften

The deadliest border in the world is the Mediterranean.

"For Fortress Europe, the Mediterranean became the moat," Neugebauer described the situation. The rescue programmes "Sophia" and "Triton" iniated by the EU failed because the member organizations of the agency Frontex provided too few rescue ships. Instead, Italy supplied the Libyan Coast Guard in Tripoli with modern patrol boats. The existing ships were modernized. The EU has given the Coast Guard a mandate to find refugee boats within Libyan territorial waters and bring the refugees back to shore, if necessary by force. The wooden boats were destroyed. After that, the traffickers used large dinghies. This made the crossing even more dangerous for the refugees. The Libyan Coast Guard also began to rescue civilian rescue vessels outside of the 12-mile zone, including Sea-Watch, from rescuing boat people. There were life-threatening incidents with additional deaths. In addition, Frontex accused the rescue ships of coordinating their actions at night by light signals with traffickers. "We rescuers were criminalized," commented Neugebauer angrily.

Death of boat people reaches peak.

In 2018, the rescue operations of Sea-Watch and other aid organizations came to a standstill because the rescue ships were no longer allowed to leave the ports of Malta and Italy. As Frontex did not send ships off the Libyan coast in 2018, the boat people were alone on the high seas. Commercial and American warships were no longer willing to take in distressed refugees despite the requirement of international maritime law. The reason: By blocking the ports in Malta and Italy they could not bring the refugees ashore. "According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) the death toll has never been so high as in the autumn of 2018. Every fifth refugee has drowned. In 2015, the rescue vessels of all relief organizations had pushed the rate to 1:52, "said Neugebauer. How many were returned by the Libyan Coast Guard is unknown to him . The prisons in Tripoli are overcrowded. Human rights are being disregarded. The EU knew that. Nevertheless, millions of dollars in funding is being channelled to a corrupt regime that calls itself the legitimate government. In fact, there are four rival militias in Tripoli. They cooperate with the smugglers.

European protests were successful. The Sea-Watch 3 is back in action.

The blockade of the rescue vessels in the ports of Malta and Italy also prompted Sea-Watch to develop better public relations strategies. The cooperation with other partners has deepened. Among them is also the initiative Seebrücke - Creates safe harbours. "Half of my rescue work is now in the office," Neugebauer commented on the new situation. He was able to report a first success. The international protests prompted Malta to lift the blockade against the Sea-Watch 3 after four months. With one ship each from the Spanish organization Open Arms and the Italian Partner Project Mediterranes, three ships and one aircraft are back in service in the search and rescue area off Libya.

Information: The reults of the working groups are documented in a protocol. This can be obtained on request at: laura.heda@kargah.de.

Powerpoint presentation by Ruben Neugebauer: https://www.dropbox.com/s/8qht8ug8ogn34m0/Copy%20of%20PPP%20SW%20Vorlage

Translated from the German by.D.Roscoe B.A.hons

Welt-in-Hannover.de bedankt sich herzlich für die tolle Unterstützung bei den vielen ehrenamtlichen Helferinnen und Helfern, sowie zahlreichen Organisationen und hofft auf weitere gute Zusammenarbeit.

Schirmherrin des Projekts Welt-in-Hannover.de ist Frau Doris Schröder-Köpf, Landesbeauftragte für Migration und Teilhabe.

kargah e. V. - Verein für interkulturelle Kommunikation, Migrations- und Flüchtlingsarbeit    Kulturzentrum Faust e. V.    Landeshauptstadt Hannover