Today, the Alarm Phone turns nine years old. 300 activists, on both sides of the Mediterranean Sea, have run and maintained this distress hotline for people on the move. Non-stop, day and night, 24/7.
During these nine years, we have assisted 7,192 boats in distress along the different maritime escape routes – the Aegean Sea, the Central Mediterranean Sea, the Western Mediterranean Sea, the Atlantic, and since 2021, also the English Channel. We have never assisted more boats in a single year than in 2023, with still three months to go: 1,671 distress cases.
We launched our activist hotline on the 11th of October 2014. We chose this date as it was the first anniversary of a terrible shipwreck that occurred in the Maltese Search and Rescue zone, leading to more than 250 people losing their lives. Both the Italian and Maltese authorities had known about this boat in distress but chose to ignore it until it capsized.
The Alarm Phone wanted to provide people on the move an alternative emergency hotline that would not ignore them. That would listen to them and amplify their voices. That would make their distress heard and pressurise authorities to not ignore, to not push back, to not let die.
In too many cases, we could not prevent that people died or disappeared at sea. We tried to stay at their side as long as we could but at some point, the phone connection would cut and we would later learn that they had not survived. Hundreds of relatives have contacted us in their desperate search for their loved ones. EU border violence echoes around the world and inflicts so much suffering on so many.
The sea is both a liquid graveyard and a site of struggle.
So far this year, we assisted 144 boats in the Channel, 154 in the Western Mediterranean and Atlantic, and 378 in the Aegean. The largest number of boats called us from the Central Mediterranean Sea: 995 boats that left from Tunisia or Libya. We have also received distress calls from different land borders, including from the Evros region, the Balkans, as well as from border zones between various northern African countries.
These ongoing arrivals show that the EU border regime fails to deter. After decades of EU border militarisation, of externalising border enforcement to dictatorial regimes, of installing a non-assistance and pushback regime, these figures demonstrate that stubborn movements across the sea continue.
Solidarity at sea also continues. Despite the countless attempts to criminalise activists and the civil fleet, rescue assets return again and again to the central Mediterranean, tirelessly engaging in search and rescue efforts.
All maritime routes remain contested spaces where people on the move enact their freedom of movement. Against all odds and all barriers, despite border violence and militarisation, regardless of the lack of rescue or the criminalisation of migration, people have not stopped crossing the Mediterranean Sea, defying borders and reaching Europe autonomously!
During a time where a racist discourse on migration spreads in Europe and far beyond, we need to pluralise forms of solidarity with people on the move and collectively fight border atrocities.
We will continue to answer the phone when it rings. During the day, during the night. We will pick up the phone and say: “Hello my friend, this is the Alarm Phone”.
WE HAVE FOUGHT FOR NINE YEARS
WE ARE NOT DONE YET
WE WILL CONTINUE
WE WILL NOT GIVE UP UNTIL THERE IS FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT FOR ALL