Sea rescuers criticize unequal treatment of refugees
The German rescue ship SEA-EYE 4 docked in Augusta on Wednesday afternoon (04/06/2022) and all 106 rescued people were allowed to go ashore. The SEA-EYE 4 arrived off Sicily on Saturday after Malta repeatedly refused to disembark the rescued and has been waiting for a safe port to be assigned ever since. For the SEA-EYE 4 it was the first mission of the year. The mission was complicated by bad weather conditions.
Harald Kischlat, M.D., board member of German Doctors e. V. says: “The refugees on board the SEA-EYE 4 stayed on boats that were not suitable for the high seas for many days. They’re hypothermic, seasick, traumatized. It is irresponsible and inhumane to deny these people access to a safe port for an unnecessarily long time.”
German Doctors e. V. is responsible for the medical care of the refugees on the SEA-EYE 4 and provides substantial support to Sea-Eye in running the on-board infirmary, furthermore there‘s also always a medical doctor aboard the ship.
“We must now quickly see a change in policy towards all people seeking protection,” says Gorden Isler, Chairman of Sea-Eye e. V. “Otherwise politicians will have serious problems answering to the accusation that has been voiced for years – one of systemic racism that is preventing the rescue of refugees from Africa and Asia – hence this would only be proven to be true once again.”
Sea-Eye criticizes the unequal treatment of people fleeing: civilian rescue ships still have to wait for days at ports of disembarkation for those seeking protection from Africa or Asia and even have to expect rejections, as in the case of the SEA-EYE 4 off Malta. The EU member states still disagree on the distribution of a few thousand people. Maltese and Italian rescue coordination centers are still refusing to coordinate emergencies at sea that have occurred in the Libyan search and rescue zone, and European authorities are still cooperating with the so-called Libyan Coast Guard to prevent people from fleeing the civil war in Libya.
“All people have the right to seek protection and asylum within the EU. Skin color, gender, origin, religion or political beliefs must not be a reason for European authorities and politicians to make a difference. Human rights are unequivocal in this respect,” emphasizes Isler.
So far in 2022, 467 people have lost their lives trying to cross the Mediterranean to find protection and freedom in Europe. The current practice that is supported by the EU member states to have people intercepted by the so-called Libyan coast guard and thus reduce the number of arrivals in Europe only endangers human lives instead of saving them.
The so-called Libyan Coast Guard failed again last week and 90 people drowned in a serious shipwreck off Libya. Only four people survived and were illegally taken back to Libya by the merchant ship ALEGRIA 1 with no chance of a fair asylum procedure, instead they face imprisonment, torture and death.
A Ukrainian captain of the merchant ship KARINA decided just a few days before, with reference to the Geneva Refugee Convention and the situation in Libya, to ask the SEA-EYE 4 for support instead of continuing his course to Benghazi.