Jürgen Castendyk | 20.04.2020
In Europe, the rule is once again: everyone on their own, everyone alone. Instead of helping each other in solidarity, the states in the EU are trying to deal with the Corona crisis alone. In the procurement of protective clothing and ventilators on the world market, even competition is made. There is only one thing that remains common: we are deterring the refugees, we are not letting them in.
"European authorities are using the Corona pandemic as a pretext not to save people in acute distress at sea."
This shocking statement by Maurice Stierl of the NGO "Alarmphone" shows in one sentence the EU's inhumane attitude towards boat refugees in the Mediterranean. The NGO is not a rescue organisation. But it receives emergency calls from refugees and forwards them to state control centres and private sea rescuers. Spiegel-online reported an emergency situation recorded by Alarmphone. For days, 70 people who had fled Libya had been at sea and could already see the coast of Malta. "The Maltese military has come and cut the cable for the engine," a refugee shouts into the phone. Water had already penetrated the boat. "They don't want anyone to come to Malta, they say that," the caller continues. "We will die, we need help." By passing on the emergency situation by means of alarm phones, the refugee boat is being brought into the port of Valetta by the Maltese navy at the last moment.
The EU does not feel responsible for respecting human rights in Libya.
The European states agreed to the military operation "Sophia" in 2015. It was discontinued in the autumn 2019. The operation was designed to combat the smugglers in Libya and to seize or destroy refugee boats, including those in Libyan territorial waters. As tens of thousands of boat refugees had to be rescued by warships, the EU could not agree on the distribution of refugees. Instead, the corrupt Libyan navy was equipped by Italy with modern ships. The crews hunt down boat refugees, plunder them, bring them back to shore and hand them over to militias or smugglers. They lock them up in closely guarded camps. The UNHCR , the UN refugee agency, speaks of "unsustainable conditions" in the illegal camps. Rape, extortion, torture and enslavement are the norm. The EU does not feel responsible for the respect for human rights. That is the task of the Libyan central government. However, it only has an influece in certain parts of the capital Tripoli and is in civil war. The so-called central government could not take action against human rights violations, even if it wanted to. It has no loyal forces of law and order. This context is well known, but the EU still sees no need for action. The main thing is that there are no more boat refugees coming to Europe. And right now, dealing with the Corona crisis is more important.
The EU has decided on a new military operation: 'Irini'. Military aircraft and naval forces are supposed to prevent the supply of arms to the warring parties in Libya. Despite international maritime law, however, the warships should not accept Libyan boat refugees. That is why their area of operation is 100 kilometres away from the Libyan coast, far from the routes of the refugees to Europe. The taz has a paper from the EU's external affairs representative Josep Borell. According to that, the military should not be stopped by saving lives. Irini is also concerned: Fortress Europe should be protected in any case. It does not matter that the Geneva Convention for the Protection of Refugees is being disregarded.
Private rescue ships are being massively prevented from taking rescued boat refugees to safe havens.
In recent years, Malta and Italy have seized or chained several civilian rescue vessels. In shamefully long trials, there has been a debate within the EU as to how the few boat refugees still left ashore should be distributed among the handful of host countries. That is why the German Ministry of the Interior has sent a letter to the civilian rescuers asking them to stop the rescue in the Mediterranean. Ships that had already left should turn back, Der Spiegel reported. "I think that's right," German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said in an interview with Tilo Jung. "At the moment it is not possible for us to get a ship that crosses the Mediterranean and has taken in refugees safely into a Mediterranean port." The ports are closed, Maas said, but this has nothing to do with migration policy but with the consequences of the Corona pandemic. Official fake news?
Italy once again won't let boat refugees ashore
The Italian government said it could not take in boat refugees because of the pandemic. This currently means for the German rescue ship „Alan Kurdi“ from the aid organization Sea-Eye.: For 13 days the ship with 150 boat refugees was located off the city of Palermo. The authorities refused to let the refugees ashore on the grounds that they could not treat those infected with Corona. The head of Operations at Sea-Eye, Jan Ribbeck, reported on the dramatic conditions on board. Many refugees had to sleep on deck, the hygienic situation was unreasonable, the medical care had collapsed and there was a lack of children's food. He said people were desperate and wanted to plunge into the water when a coastguard boat was nearby. Self-harm and suicide attempts could hardly be prevented. Due to international protests by NGOs, the refugees are now being isolated and treated on a ferry. The crew of Alan Kurdi remains in quarantine and is not allowed to leave their ship. There is still no agreement on the distribution of refugees among European countries. So the tug-of-war that is shameful for Europe continues.
A similar fate was suffered by the Spanish rescue ship "Aita Mari". It had taken in 43 boat refugees off the Libyan coast and was not allowed to land in Malta. Reason: Corana crisis. The Aita Mari is now located in the view of the Italian island of Lampedusa on Reede. Here, too, the authorities refuse to let the refugees disembark, citing the virus.
Europe is losing its credibility
The journalist and non-fiction author about the Middle East, Kristin Helberg, Kristin Helberg, who became known through TV appearances,summed it up: "We also like to go into the world and talk about human rights and democracy. If we then demonstrate such a lack of credible support for this, at our own external borders, then we will in fact be squandering any credibility. Is Europe failing its own humanitarian claims - never again violating fundamental and human rights?" There is nothing to add to that.