At the moment, a massive campaign is ongoing against sea rescue by NGOs, including Sea-Eye. This malicious campaign is mainly led by the Italian Movemento 5 Stelle, the “five star movement” of right-wing comedian Beppe Grillo and other groups belonging to the extreme right.
The accusations are based on rumours that were spread deliberately, but also on the “investigation” of Italian prosecutor Zuccaro, who has been speaking for weeks about “proofs” of a connection between traffickers and sea rescuers, which he claims to have. However, he doesn’t put them on the table, but arms newspapers with his “findings.”
During a one-hour hearing before the Italian Parliamentary Committee during the week before Easter, Sea-Eye founder Michael Buschheuer rejected these accusations and presented sea rescue as undertaken by Sea-Eye with images and an extensive explanation of our rules and procedures during our missions. The key sentences:
– Sea-Eye is operating off the Libyan coast in international waters.
– Sea-Eye gets called to the locations by the MRCC Rome (an institution of the Italian Army). The MRCC coordinates the rescue activities of the NGOs together with the military and the coast guard. But there are also own sightings of refugee boats in distress.
– Sea-Eye has no contact – neither directly nor indirectly – with traffickers or trafficking organisations.
holds the opinion that the traffickers’ exploitation of escapes across the Mediterranean is an unscrupolous and murderous game with the misery and despair of people and is motivated by sheer greed for profit. “Traffickers are killers.”
– Sea-Eye is financed at 80% through donations by private donors and at 20% through sums of fines from German courts or prizes gained at TV quiz shows.
– Sea-Eye is a registered non-profit organisation and for this reason obliged to disclose its finances to the tax authorities.
– Sea-Eye is undertaking rescues in the Mediterranean simply because the European states are no longer undertaking active sea rescue since the termination of the Mare Nostrum operation, and mass deaths in the Mediterranean ensued.
The President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, had to admit: “Terminating Mare Nostrum was a serious mistake which has cost human lives.”
As much as 40% of rescue operations are undertaken by NGOs, says even Frontex Head Leggeri.
Italy’s Committee of Bishops (CEI) called the accusations against the human rights organisations which are rescuing refugees in the Mediterranean “disgraceful.” “These accusations are driven by a disgraceful attitude held by those who do not want to rescue people who are escaping across the Mediterranean,” said the Director of the CEI-affiliated Migrant Foundation, Bishop Giancarlo Perego.
Is Frontex in conflict with private rescue organisations? The spokesperson of the European border protection agency, Ewa Moncure, denies this. “We never criticised the rescue organisations,” she said in an interview – and called for legal immigration channels to Europe, “so as to save as many lives as possible.”
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