28.09.2023. Today, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock will meet with her Italian counterpart Antonio Tajani in Berlin. At the same time, EU interior ministers will meet in Brussels. On the occasion of these two meetings, the Managing Director of SOS Humanity, Till Rummenhohl, commented:
“Next week will be the tenth anniversary of the shipwreck off Lampedusa, in which at least 366 people lost their lives in 2013. Since then, no political solutions have been found to prevent the ongoing deaths in the Mediterranean. On the contrary, the measures negotiated today, such as the EU-Tunisia deal and the upcoming reform of the European asylum system, will not lead to fewer people fleeing, but to more dangerous refugee routes and inhumane conditions at Europe’s external borders.
More than 22,000 people have drowned in the Mediterranean since 2014, and this year we are witnessing a dramatic increase, with over 2,000 deaths already.
Rescue at sea is not only a humanitarian but also a legal duty. For many years, we have been calling for a state-coordinated, European search and rescue programme to end the deaths in the Mediterranean. Criminal actors such as the so-called Libyan Coast Guard, and governments that disregard human rights, such as Tunisia’s, are supported with millions of Euros instead of implementing Europe’s values and saving lives. Supporting life-saving operations at sea should be a matter of course – for all European states. The EU is breaking maritime and international law and letting Europe’s values sink at its external borders.
In its coalition agreement, the German government promised “state-coordinated and European-supported sea rescue in the Mediterranean” and “a fair division of responsibility between the countries bordering the Mediterranean.” So far, we have only seen the recently approved financial support of 2 million Euros for non-governmental search and rescue, although this was already decided by the German Bundestag last year. The amount corresponds to just 0.3 percent of Germany’s annual budget for humanitarian aid.
On average, one person drowns every three hours while fleeing across the Mediterranean, the deadliest refugee route in the world. SOS Humanity will be able to save lives and prevent children, women and men from drowning with its share of the two million Euros funding this year, but this will not solve the humanitarian and political catastrophe in the Mediterranean.”
On the occasion of these two meetings, the non-governmental search and rescue organisation SOS Humanity calls on the German government and EU member states to advocate for a humane and human rights-based refugee policy. Our demands are:
- Work towards an EU search and rescue programme in the central Mediterranean. The German government announced in its coalition agreement that it would work towards this aim. Europe must ensure state-coordinated, European search and rescue in the Mediterranean, the world’s deadliest escape route. International maritime law and human rights must be respected.
- End cooperation with Libya and Tunisia, and stop the funding of the so-called Libyan and the Tunisian Coast Guards. The EU and its member states must stop tolerating and supporting violations of the non-refoulement principle under international law, and people fleeing must not be forcibly returned to the country from which they fled.
- Disembark people rescued from distress at sea as fast as possible and only in safe places, as prescribed by the law of the sea. Neither Libya nor Tunisia can be considered places of safety for people rescued at sea, as violence, discrimination and human rights violations are commonplace and no protection for refugees can be guaranteed.
- Stop the erosion of refugee rights in the EU through the planned reform of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS). The individual right to asylum would be undermined by the reform planned since June through tightened border procedures and the expansion of the concept of ‘safe third countries’. Approval of the ‘crisis regulation’ at today’s meeting of EU interior ministers would also mean legally cementing the existing state of emergency and, with it, legal breaches at the EU’s external borders. Instead of the planned CEAS reform, SOS Humanity calls for a new, solidarity-based system that protects the rights and dignity of people seeking protection.
- The EU and its member states must establish safe and legal refugee routes. The right to asylum is a human right. Continuing to close the door to Europe will simply lead to more suffering and deaths at the EU’s external borders.
For questions, statements or interviews, please contact our press officer Petra Krischok, firstname.lastname@example.org, +49 (0) 176 552 506 54.
Image and video material for editorial purposes only of SOS Humanity’s rescue missions in 2023 can be found under this link. Please use photographer / SOS Humanity as credit.