Dear Ms. Mogherini,
“Europe is what we make of it” - this was promoted by you at the end of March on the 60th anniversary of the Treaties of Rome. But what is being done in Europe? With our work we are trying to shape Europe solidarity and human: We head out to the Mediterranean Sea and rescue people at the European frontier, because we do not want to accept the dying.
But we miss the support of the EU on the ground while we are in action. We are currently observing at the Mediterranean Sea a development that is contrary to our idea of a human and just Europe: The European policy focuses on border closure.
With the closure of the Balkan route and the EU-Turkey deal, the fleeing people have been driven more and more onto the dangerous Mediterranean route. Instead of facing the home-made emergency situation at the Mediterranean with the help of sea rescue programs, the EU is counting on an odd agreement with the shattered civil war country Libya. Again, the concept is based on the closure of borders - as if nothing had been understood in the last months.
The training of the Libyan coast guard by the EU is being criticized by many sides for good reasons: already in 2016 the attacks by the Libyan coast guard on the vessels of MSF and Sea Watch have shown how unpredictable this actor can be. The country is divided, there is no single government, many rival groups struggle for power - this is also reflected in “the” coast guard. With whom does the EU actually cooperate?
Last week, however, there was an incident: outside the Libyan territory, a patrol vessel from Libya intervened in a rescue operation from Sea Watch. They were rammed almost by the Libyan ship. The Libyan units dragged several refugees back into their territorial waters to take them back to Libya. They thus broke with international law.
What will happen to Europe, if we have cooperation partners who disregard valid law? If we conclude agreements with countries where human rights are not enforced? If the EU itself is not even able to protect human rights? If the fundamental human right to life, liberty and security does not seem to have any validity at the Mediterranean?
This is not our Europe. We ask you to engage for a humane asylum policy: as long as there is no legal possibility of entry for refugees, there must be at least a comprehensive sea rescue program of the EU. For as long as such programs do not exist, people will die at our gates to Europe. We are active at sea to counter this rescue gap. But we also reach our limits: the last few weeks have made it clear that search and rescue cannot be performed alone by NGOs.
We name this mission consciously after you. We see ourselves in the position to take on a task which the EU neglects: the rescue of people from acute danger of life.
We want a Europe that takes responsibility and stands for the fundamental right to life and security. This requires reasonable measures, such as a European sea rescue program, which helps to alleviate the emergency situation at sea. We are happy if you, Ms. Mogherini, join us to talk about such measures and our experience at the Mediterranean.
With kind regards, The Jugend Rettet Team
Having discovered a boat in distress either by active search or on direction by a rescue coordination centre, the Iuventa remains at an appropriate stand off distance while the RHIBs approach the stricken boat from the stern and distribute life vets, if necessary.
One of the RHIBS starts then to shuttle persons to safety on board the Iuventa while the other always remains in contact with the boat. On occasion the RHIBS tow the boat alongside the Iuventa for direct embarkation.
Once on board, rescued persons receive medical attention and most importantly drinking water which is kept in large built-in tanks that can be refilled by generating potable water from sea water by means of a water-maker.
Eventually larger NGO or Italian coast-guard vessels transfer our rescued persons to safety ashore.
Mission Fabrice Leggeri
Dear Fabrice Leggeri,
According to the spokeswoman of your authority, Ewa Moncure, Frontex has never criticized SAR-NGOs. You would only observe the situation on the ground and you noticed that migrants in distress would not call the MRCC as in the years before and would still be saved by ships. The insinuation that NGOs are the reason for the increase in refugees in the Mediterranean ("pull factor") and the increasing death rate, still resonates with this statement.
We also made some observations on the Easter weekend: on only one weekend some 8.000 people were located and saved in seaworthy boats. 25 ships were involved in the rescue packages, one of which was from Frontex, one from the EU mission Sophia and ten from SAR NGOs. In spite of the May days sent by the NGOs, which have also heard their ships by radio, no further ships were rescued from their side.
For some people, the aid came too late this weekend: but dying on the Mediterranean continued, although the NGOs have worked tirelessly and pushed their limits on their burdens. We wonder whether dying could not have been prevented. And why of your 11 ships, which are deployed in the Mediterranean, only one was involved in the rescue operations.
We also ask ourselves why you would not discuss your concerns with us personally, but instead turn to the press with your reproaches. We have been available since the beginning for a clarifying discussion among adults. Unfortunately, you and your authority have not yet agreed to any meeting.
The Easter weekend has shown again that we need to provide help because state actors are not present. And that is why we are naming our fourth mission after you, Mr Leggeri: Border security must never be above the duty to save people from the danger of life. We demand political measures according to humanitarian standards to deal with the current fleeing of refugees.
Every person deserves rescue at sea!
Mission Sebastian Kurz
THE THIRD MISSION 2017
Acknowledge the distress of the people, Herr Kurz
Only in March did you say that the "NGO madness" in the Mediterranean must be end. We would also be pleased if our work became no longer necessary. But not like this! Because you do not want to recognize the people's need and prefer to see an isolated Europe, we act where you do not. And so we name our mission after you!
Since the beginning of our project we have been criticizing the fact that private initiatives have to take over the task of sea rescue. Unfortunately, there are no measures by the state to counteract the suffering and distress of the fleeing people: There are neither comprehensive state marine rescue programs, nor measures to counteract the illegal immigration. Instead, the EU governments are trying to create disgrace on the Mediterranean from the viewpoint of the European Community. The North African detention center and the development of the European frontier system will not put an end to the plight of the people and solve the problem. This has already been proved by the demands on the refugees of the Australian model in camps outside the EU.
The closure of the Balkan route, which you have so diligently worked on, is a symbol of the fact that such policies are completely unsuitable. The procedure, which you also call a success, simply ensured that the escape routes have shifted, and now several thousand refugees are stuck in Greece. The closure has neither led to an improvement for these people, nor has it had a positive effect on the migration movement. Now you are promoting the closure of the Mediterranean route. And also a Europe without migration, without empathy and without moral consciousness. Australia is detaining refugees in unsafe housing on secluded islands. Human rights organizations regularly report violent attacks, rape and abuse of children in these camps. Is this to be a serious example of European asylum policy?
You complain that the NGOs in the Mediterranean are the partners of the traffickers. Because on the basis of missing alternatives, refugees are only forced to entrust their life to traffickers. Maybe you should think about this chain, instead of pushing the blame on the organizations that keep people from drowning.
Your Jugend Rettet Team
April 18th '17: Statement on the incidents of Easter weekend
The last days were a hard strain on our crew. Through professional work and a combination of the necessary peace and good cooperation, our team was able to surrender everyone safely to a ship of "Save the Children", the Vos Hestia. The helpers have gone to their maximum in the last hours. However, they are in a good condition and now back on their way to our port in Malta.
Decisive for the situation at Easter Sunday were the events on Saturday, April 15, 2017: as our crew reported, about 3000 people were in distress at the same time, after already 2000-3000 people arrived in the SAR area during the previous days. According to the Italian coast guard, a total of 7,000 people arrived in the operational area on 15 and 16 April 2017. This has resulted in a maximum demand for all existing deployments and the fact that even large NGO ships such as the Aquarius of SOS MEDITERRANEE and the Phoenix of MOAS could not take up any more people after a short time. As a result, several large NGO vessels had to leave the area of operations with people on board in order to land them. The Iuventa, the sea-eye.org and the Phoenix (MOAS) were left alone in the SAR zone.
Refugees on deck of the IUVENTA
After the IUVENTA handed over 800 rescued people to a marine ship on Saturday, they took over 309 people overnight on Sunday. A large part of them could be taken on board, others were provided on rescue boats and islands. At this time, also an estimated 400 people were in their vicinity in distress and without adequate assistance. It was as well officially reported that there were still 5 other inflatable boats with an estimated 600 people on their way to the operational area. In cooperation with the SAR units still present, the IUVENTA provided the surrounding inflatable and wooden boats with life vests and rescue islands all day long. People were given medical care. At midday of that day, all rescue tools were handed out and our resources at the end. Through these exceptional circumstances of rescue, the Iuventa found itself in an extreme situation. The Sea Eye and the Phoenix were already fully loaded with people on board at this time. The MRCC in Rome had sent ships for the acceptance and transfer of the people several times during the day and night, but on their way they found rubber boats in distress themselves they had to take care of. The weather at the same time continued to deteriorate and there was no prospect of assistance. The extreme sea and weather conditions particularly threatened the people, who could no longer be accommodated under deck of the IUVENTA. Around the Iuventa, a number of rubber boats and wooden boats, as well as several rescue islands were already in use due to a lack of capacity on board. This particularly high number of people in distress is not a new phenomenon for civilian aid organizations. Nevertheless the last weekend shows how dramatic the situation on the Mediterranean is and how urgent political action is required.
Tanker "Stemnitsa" on the left.
All night, our crew and the Berlin team were negotiating with MRCC Rome to find a common solution. During the night the MRCC also provided the 250 meter long tanker "Stemnitsa" as an accompaniment for us. In its wind and wave shadow, the IUVENTA was able to drive very slowly northwards to meet the Vos Hestia at an agreed point. The guests on board were able to survive the night on the deck and in the water by means of this practical help. Many of them were directly confronted with the bad weather conditions which made them reach their physical as well as psychological boundaries. Two of the eight pregnant women on board were in critical condition and the medical team of Rainbow for Africa provided them help at the IUVENTA Hospital.
The fact that the MRCC had problems to provide the IUVENTA with a ship to which the rescued could be delivered, we revert to their overload. They are in these situations as well as we are only able to work with what is available to them. The fact that too few ships are used for days like these shows again how urgently and inevitably an entire European solution is needed.
Our Skipper Kai Kaltgärtner describes the incident as followed:
In the morning hours of Sunday we rescued 250 people from several rubber boats and took them onboard. Meanwhile a wooden boat with 700 people approached in the dark and tried to get on the IUVENTA alongside. With an avoidance manoeuvre I prevented a collision as well as the chance to reach us alongside. But people on the wooden boat paniced, which is why about 50 people of them jumped in the water and climbed onboard the Iuventa. This caused an overcrowding. All other NGO-ships next to us were overcrowded too and in close distance to us proximity several hundred people where in distress. Due to our achieved capacity, we couldn’t provide those people. The requested support to transfer the rescued did not show up for more than 12 hours. As the weather changed the people on deck as well as on life rafts and rubber boats around us were endangered. These developments lead me to the decision to send the Mayday in order to finally receive help.
Since the founding of our association, we have pointed out that private rescue organizations are filling up existing state gaps. Our demand for an EU rescue program remains as relevant as ever in the course of recent developments. Although our organization has been operating sea rescue for a year, there is no improvement in the situation in sight. The NGOs, on the other hand, reach their limits under certain circumstances. The extreme numbers of the last few days show that very clearly. As a private organization, we provided 2,147 people with rescue tools within three days. The European Union must participate in the rescue of people on the run with a clear mandate. The sole focus on the elimination of the trafficking networks does not help the people, who at this moment have to flee from war and violence. Their lives should never be taken at risk for a policy of deterrence and closed borders.
Further information and statements from the crew and captain will follow in the next days. Due to the circumstances they went though, they need a moment of rest on their way to Malta after this extreme commitment.
Mission Von der Leyen
THE SECOND MISSION 2017
We demand a state-run rescue mission, Frau von der Leyen!
Since the beginning of mission Sophia ships of the navy are chasing a phantom - smugglers on the Mediterranean.
Instead of using the 42.3 million Euros to rescue people in maritime distress the navy's ships are not allowed to engage in active search and rescue. We are forced to take responsibility on sea in place of politicians instead!
In 2015 Frau von der Leyen claimed to sent those ships on a mission of search and rescue near the territorial waters of Libya. A mandate to fight against smugglers is the only thing that's left of that promise. There is no appearence of the word 'rescue' in that mandate. For the next two weeks we'll make your words come true and carry out rescue missions.
Mission De Maizière
FIRST MISSION 2017
As young Europeans we take over the job of political actors who actually should take responsibility on the grounds of European values. We cannot watch any longer how Europes responsibilities are neglected on the borders of a Fortress Europe.
We are investing our time and energy unsalaried to stand for our vision of Europe. When people die at our borders there is only one thing we should do: rescue them.
We're asking ourselves: If we manage to buy a ship, to convert it and to organise a professional crew to save people in maritime distress - why are political decision makers not able to take over those tasks?
From now on we will dedicate our rescue missions to exactly those persons whose responsibilities we are taking over on the sea.
This is why our first mission will be dedicated to Thomas De Maizière.