One year ago a dinghy shipwrecked in the Channel. Approximately 48 people were onboard travelling from France to the UK in search of protection. Four of them are confirmed to have died, while we estimate five more to still be missing at sea.
Salinia Stroux - How Greek and Turkish authorities use push and pull-backs under the eyes of Frontex and NATO to systematically hinder people on the move from reaching protection in Europe, thereby putting these lives at further risk.
Instead of increasing rescue capacities, the EU is concentrating its efforts on deterring unwanted travellers. In late October, the EU’s naval operation EUNAVFOR MED/Sophia has started to train the so-called Libyan coast guard on their vessels, showing them how to do the dirty job of preventing travellers from leaving Libyan waters.
In the past two months, the period that this report covers, the WatchTheMed Alarm Phone was frequently alerted to situations of distress in all three regions of the Mediterranean Sea. We were engaged in 38 distress cases, of which 18 took place in the Central Mediterranean, 7 in the Aegean Sea and 13 in the Western Mediterranean (please find links to the individual reports of the past two months below). While in most cases the safe arrival of all travellers could be confirmed, in some cases we had to witness the loss of life and human rights violations.
Despite mass drowning and illegal push-back operations by the Greek coastguards in the presence of Europe’s border agency Frontex, we experience how EU institutions, national governments, and the mainstream media remain largely silent. Whereas past mass shipwrecks caused at least some reactions, even if often hypocritical ones, the silence that we now witness points to the normalizing of border cruelty and migrant deaths.
EU politicians and institutions will publicly express their sorrow about the many fatalities. They will call for policy-changes and the further militarisation of the sea. They will again blame the smugglers and seek to reinforce deals with authoritarian regime. However, every shipwreck and every death of the past years is a consequence of exactly these European actions and inactions.
Those threatened by deportation, detention and border violence have risen up in self-organised protest. Also we are not getting tired to raise our voices against those dehumanising practices and will continue to struggle for the opening of borders and the freedom of movement for all.
We cannot find words to express our anger, grief and disbelief about these current developments in the Aegean region. More forceful than ever, the EU deploys every means available to deter migration movements and, in the process, is responsible for the unabated dying at sea, and human rights violations within and beyond European territory on a mass scale.
While the European Union, its border agency FRONTEX and NATO have launched a war against unwanted migrants in the Aegean region, people on the move remind European leaders “we are human beings”, and ask them to open borders, as in a recent protest in a camp in Lesvos.
More and more people are currently arriving in Idomeni and with difficult weather conditions the situation will further worsen if Macedonia, under the pressure of EU member states, remains unwilling to open its borders to allow people to move on.
Despite the desperate attempts of the European Union to re-stabilize its crumbled border regime, it seems to us that only bad weather conditions can prevent people on the move from crossing the sea border to the Greek islands – and not national border guards or Frontex’ forces.
In the last two weeks, we were informed about or directly witnessed at least 7 maritime accidents, with more than one hundred deaths, including many children. Not least due to the EU-enforced presence of Turkish police forces at the coast, travellers are forced to take ever more lengthy and dangerous routes
The situation on the island of Farmakonisi is particularly dramatic, as the island is uninhabited except for the military stationed there. Without any reception infrastructure on the island, arriving people are neither fed, nor given water or shelter.
We dealt with 38 emergency situations in the Aegean Sea and 1 in the Western Mediterranean Sea. On Wednesday the 11th of November, yet again, many people died at sea. 14 refugees, including 7 children, drowned in Turkish waters when their vessel capsized.
Most importantly, both the distress situations at sea and those on land can be avoided. Once again, the Alarm Phone wants to call for a radical change in European border politics: Only the possibility to enter Europe through safe ways will end the deaths in the Mediterranean.
In a shipwreck on Wednesday 14-15 people went missing near Samos and are feared dead and on Sunday a vessel collided with a rock near Lesvos and the bodies of 1 woman and 2 children have already been found and 10 more are still missing. There have been circulating news account of more tragedies, including six more deaths and another person gone missing. Another gruesome tragedy occurred in the Central Mediterranean Sea, presumably with more than 70 casualties. At least 43 bodies were washed up on Libyan shores and another 30 people from the shipwreck are still missing, also feared dead.
"In the past two weeks the Alarm Phone witnessed awful and inacceptable forms of violence committed against travellers at sea. In the Western Mediterranean we directly witnessed how several groups of travellers were forcefully intercepted and detained, with one group being even deported to the Moroccan border to Mauretania. In the Aegean Sea, travellers informed us about six attacks on boats in Greek territorial waters."
This long summer of migration in 2015 has clearly shown that barbed wire fences, military forces and other measures of deterrence cannot stop human mobility. The recent crossings of ten thousands of people have demonstrated the permeability of borders and have led to the (maybe only momentary) collapse of the Dublin system and other control mechanisms of the border regime of the European Union