Author: Frederic Penard
The extraordinary support we have received from European civil society since we were first refused a port of safety for the 630 people who were stranded on the Aquarius shows that citizens are wiser than their leaders (Report, 13 June). By showing their attachment to human life and dignity first, they contrast with the European heads of state and governments for whom this intolerable journey should be a wake-up call. To those EU leaders who would like us gone, we repeat that, as a maritime and humanitarian organisation, our only aim is to save and preserve life according to the law of the sea; and to bear witness on behalf of civil society to the ongoing tragedy in the Mediterranean.
To those who’ve been supportive, we are sincerely thankful. Nevertheless, we have to remind them that as EU member states, they are co-responsible for the situation in the Mediterranean. By contributing to the training and financing of the Libyan coastguard, they are consciously participating in interceptions of boats in distress, which not only result in people being sent back to the Libyan hell, but also gravely jeopardises safe, efficient and professional search and rescue activities in international waters. To those of them who have been indifferent to our repeated calls for more coordinated search and rescue capacity in the central Mediterranean and for a European response to the drama on our common shores, we say that time has come to wake up. We urge all EU states to adopt immediately an adequate and common response plan to this tragedy: a European rescue fleet must be deployed and a EU-shared policy must be found for the safe disembarkation of the rescued people in the nearest port of safety.
Indifference has resulted in too many deaths; inaction is criminal. As long as there will be people risking their lives at sea, SOS Méditerranée will pursue its mission in the international waters at the doorstep of Europe to search, rescue and testify.