The European dream has become a nightmare for many immigrants. In the first quarter of 2018, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) registered 3,345 arrivals by sea, 38% more than in the same period of 2017. But not only the number of migrants that reach their destination grows, but also the number of those who do not get it and die during the journey. Between January and March, 150% more people died than in the first quarter of last year.
More and more times the Mediterranean pinches those who try to cross it, wakes them up and teaches them that reality is not what their traffickers promised them. More than 2,726 people, almost half of the migrant victims who die throughout the world, do so in this sea. A cemetery of hope for those who want to cross it and shame for Europe. A mute witness to the migratory crisis to which only the NGOs that still can continue rescuing lives in it give voice.
This migration crisis has been shaking European coasts for a long time, but it was really in 2013 when it shocked the whole of Europe. Lampedusa, a small Italian island, awoke with 366 corpses on its shores. The Italian government of Enrico Letta took the reins and launched the Mare Nostrum operation. It had good results, 728 traffickers were arrested and nearly 100,000 immigrants were saved. However, it did not last a year and was replaced by the so-called Triton operation.
This mission did not take long to show its shortcomings. Fewer budgets, a more limited range and more intention to capture traffickers than to rescue immigrants. Then, the first organizations began to arrive in elaborate rescue missions and to portray what until now is still the largest migratory corridor by sea. “The people we rescued show the marks of the tortures they suffer in detention centres, ” says Ricardo Gatti, head of mission at Proactiva Open Arms. The organization, founded by Óscar Camps, has been in the Central Mediterranean since 2016.
Anabel Montes is also the head of mission of the Open Arms and affirms that “there are more and more obstacles to carry out rescues, since July of last year the forms of the Libyan coast guard are more aggressive “. The European Union finances the Libyan coast guard As of August 2017 there were nine operational NGOs with 12 ships. Of them, currently, there is only one NGO with a boat in operation.
The dates match your complaint. On July 6, 2017 ministers of the European Union met in Tallinn to agree “to continue increasing the capacity of the Libyan coast guard” and “to reinforce border controls”. On August 28, Spain, Germany, France and Italy ratified in Paris the incipient agreements of the month of July.
The Libyan coast guard was to be instructed and financed to stop the arrival of immigrants to the Italian coasts. Discredit campaign The NGOs, and specifically, Proactiva Open Arms have since suffered serious attacks by the Libyan coast guard. They kidnapped them, threatening to open fire if they did not comply with their orders. However, these are not the only attacks that the NGO has received.
The director of Frontex, Fabrice Leggeri, sowed doubt about the work of “some” of these organizations. He even accused them of “taxis for the traffickers”. Ricardo Gatti explains that this type of statements are part of a campaign to criminalize NGOs and confesses that if the idea that organizations “are rotten” is established, people will come to think that “it is better not to leave”.
Now, the boat with which the NGO operates is being held in the Italian port of Pozallo. They accuse them of immigrant trafficking when they disembark in Italy and not deliver the rescued to the Libyan coast guard, who according to Rome was the one who coordinated the rescue. However, Libya has no capacity to coordinate rescue and Rome was the closest and safest port, a place that according to the international maritime law would have to carry the rescued.
Libya can not coordinate Libya does not have a Maritime Search and Rescue Operational Center (MRCC) and therefore can not coordinate rescues. The judge, however, has revealed in his decree that a ship of the Italian Navy is moored in the port of Tripoli carrying out coordination and rescue work.