Sea-Watch questions EU plans to crack down central med. route, as 10th mission launches

Sea-Watch demands a #safepassage and claims respect for the civil SAR fleet by all actors, as 10th mission launches. Our vessel Sea-Watch 2 is setting sails today for its 10th mission this year. More than 15 000 people in distress have been helped by the Crews of Sea-Watch so far, however 2016 is the most deadliest year in history on the med. “EU efforts to crack down the central mediterranean route, including deals with the Libyan Coast Guard, are contributing to a situation, more chaotic and dangerous ever since” Sea-Watch board member and part of the 10th mission, Frank Dörner says.

“Sea-Watch is alarmed by certain incidents between civil SAR ships and the Libyan Coast Guard. In one case, shots were fired at the MSF vessel Bourbon Argos, putting the life of the crew at risk. In another case a rescue operation on order of MRCC Rome, carried out by our vessel Sea-Watch 2, outside of Libyan territorial waters, was intercepted by speedboats that identified themselves as Libyan Coast Guard. The refugees were then returned by force to Libya” Sea-Watch CEO Axel Grafmanns says “We are acting under international law, according to the duty to rescue, therefore the civil rescue fleet must be respected by all actors on the mediterranean sea.”

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“A lot of patients, we have treated in our hospital aboard the Sea-Watch 2, tell us about abuses, torture or deprivation of liberty, they have gone through in Libya.” Sea-Watch doctor and member of the board, Frank Dörner says. Some also report about forced returns through the Libyan Coast Guard, as it has been witnessed by Sea-Watch. “We can´t rule out, that recent incidents between civil SAR ships and the Libyan Coast Guard near territorial Waters, have been a strategy to scare off NGOs here – probably it is not appreciated by the Libyan Coast Guard, if Sea-Watch or other NGOs document evidence of potentially illegal push backs or interceptions,” Grafmanns says

Sea-Watch strongly condemns such interceptions or pushbacks. The international SAR convention finds clear words. Any person rescued in distress, has to be delivered to a place of safety. “Anybody considering Libya as a place of safety, either has no idea of the situation on the ground, or is ignoring basic human rights,” Dörner says. “It is obvious, a cooperation with the Libyan Coast Guard, as it is aimed by the European Union, will lead to more interceptions and push backs, with tragic consequences for refugees. We have talked to persons that got intercepted several times by Libyan Coast Guard, putting their live at risk again and again. This interceptions often cynically called rescues are endangering human lives, as they will try for Europe another time. It makes no sense to put resources in fortification. Efforts should be taken instead, to solve the reasons for their escape and to provide a #safepassage to those who will come anyway.”

“If a European government decides to support groups like the Libyan Coast Guard, it has to make sure that this groups do not violate human rights and that they do not interfere with Search and Rescue Operations according to international law. We doubt, that enough efforts are taken yet in case of the Libyan Coast Guard to ensure this” Grafmanns says.

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