My name is Carlotta Weibl and I am spokeswoman for Sea-Eye. I would like to give a short statement about our current situation of 64 rescuees on board of the Alan Kurdi and would like to explain the latest developments. This statement will also be sent out as a press release later today.
On 3rdof April we rescued 64 persons from a rubber boat in international waters off Libya. As the Libyan coast guard seems to be out of service and the rescue coordination center in Tripoli was not responding to emails or phone calls from Sea-Eye, a port of safety was requested from the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centers (MRCCs) in Rome and Valletta. As we all know, in Libya refugees and migrants have no access to a just asylum procedure and no protection of their human rights. In fact, they have to fear irreparable harm, including torture, slavery, and rape. Libya cannot be considered a safe place in any case and with the latest political developments and a new impending civil war, it is clear that a safe port can only lie north of Libya. The Alan Kurdi therefore approached the closest SAFE port, which is on Lampedusa.
Off Lampedusa we were not only denied access to the port but also to Italian territorial waters. We received an email from MRCC Rome, which said that we could not enter territorial waters as the Alan Kurdi would allegedly represent a threat “to the peace, good order or security of the coastal state”, according to Art 19 UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea). WE ADHERED TO THE ORDERS GIVEN BY THE AUTHORITIES AND DID NOT ENTER TERRITORIAL WATERS AT ANY POINT.
64 people plus 17 crew members exceed the capacity of the Alan Kurdi. Still, anyone is safer on our ship than on a sinking rubber boat. Legally there is also no discussion about our duty to rescue. DUE TO DELAYED DISEMBARKATION HOWEVER, THE RESCUED PEOPLE MUST ENDURE UNSUSTAINABLE HUMANITARIAN CONDITIONS. They partly have to sleep outside on deck and are exposed to wind, waves and cold. A storm is approaching, which will put the people on board in great danger. Most of the rescuees are in weak physical conditions after their flight and the extreme conditions in Libyan detention camps. Many are suffering from seasickness, which debilitates them even more. In addition to the physical conditions, also the psychological state of many people is weak. We have a woman on board, who was sold, had to work in a brothel and was tortured when she refused. Eventually, she had to buy herself free. This woman needs immediate psychological support and should not be put under even more stress by delayed disembarkation.
Immediately after the rescue on 3rdof April, Sea-Eye requested diplomatic support from the German Federal Foreign Office, as the Alan Kurdi flies a German flag. Since then we are in close contact with each other. The Federal Foreign Office has called in the European Commission to mediate and to find a solution to our situation.
On the 5thof April, the Federal Foreign Office, the European Commission, and other European countries which are not known to us, without Sea-Eye’s request, negotiated with Italy about the evacuation of two families with small children for humanitarian reasons. According to the Federal Foreign Office the negotiations resulted in an agreement about the evacuation of the two families. Italy however, stated towards Sea-Eye that the agreement only included the two children and displayed itself as generous by also offering the evacuation of the two mothers. In an email sent on board by the Italian MRCC, we were informed that “after a deal among European Commission, and other European Countries, Germany has requested to disembark the two little children from humanitarian reasons. Italy believes that this is also the need to disembark the two mothers in addition to the children”. The Federal Foreign Office cannot confirm this.
Before Sea-Eye had the chance to answer, Italy sent two patrol boats to the Alan Kurdi in order to pick up the two mothers with their children – excluding the fathers. Italy insisted on separating the families by forcing the fathers to stay behind on board of the Alan Kurdi. After repeated requests from Sea-Eye to the Italian authorities to overthink this decision, the concerning families themselves announced that they do not wish to be separated and preferred to stay together on board of the Alan Kurdi. The evacuation was therefore aborted.
By insisting on the separation of the families, Italy violated the principle of family unity (enshrined in article 16 of the European Human Rights Convention and all HR treaties and national Constitutions).
IN THE RECENT RESCUE CASES DISEMBARKATION HAS BECOME CONDITIONAL TO POLITICAL NEGOTIATIONS AMONGST EU MEMBER STATES. YESTERDAY, EVEN HUMANITARIAN EVACUATION OF PARTICULARLY VULNERABLE PEOPLE ON BOARD HAS BEEN SUBORDINATED TO STRIKING A DEAL.
We strongly denounce this approach and demand Italy to apply the same human rights to refugees and migrants as to European citizens. Actually, these are “rescued people” and should not be treated differently by categorizing them based on their legal status, as “migrants”: at sea there is no migrant, banker or plumber: there are only people.
CURRENTLY WE ARE IN INTERNATIONAL WATERS OFF MALTA AND ARE WAITING FOR FURTHER INSTRUCTIONS.
The Captain´s decision to turn the ship towards Malta has been the result of background consultations with German authorities where we did not feel like we had a choice to get our rescued people safely into Italy.
Food and water supplies will run out shortly and the medical situation can deteriorate quickly once the storm sets in tonight. We therefore urge the European member states to act in the name of humanity and in accordance with human rights.
AD HOC AGREEMENTS ARE NOT A SUSTAINABLE APPROACH AND CANNOT BE MADE ON THE BACK OF 64 PERSONS, WHO JUST BARELY ESCAPED DEATH THROUGH DROWNING. Rescuing persons from distress should be carried out independently from political agendas within single states. Nevertheless, it seems like the solution to our situation can only be a political one. We have become dependent on the negotiations between EU states, which represent an unacceptable distortion and violation of the law applicable to SAR operations. We are suffering in this position, where you risk being arrested if you follow the law and do what is right, while you are forced to prolong people´s suffering by doing what states request.
We appreciate that we were given the space for this statement here in Italy today and would like to thank Mediterranea for inviting us. A strong civil society is most crucial in the fight for human rights and we are happy to see that with you Italy has a civil society which does not agree with the inhumane practices we witnessed in the past days. Thank you!
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