Date: Sunday, 17 June 2018
The Aquarius, a humanitarian rescue boat chartered by SOS MEDITERRANEE and operated in partnership with Médecins Sans Frontières, entered Sunday morning in the port of Valencia in Spain - in convoy with an Italian Coast Guard ship and an Italian warship - for the landing of 630 rescued persons in the Mediterranean Sea eight days earlier.
These 630 men, women and children were fleeing a real ordeal in Libya . Driven in inflatable boats by ruthless traffickers, they spent hours of agonizing drifting on top of these fragile craft before being rescued by the Aquarius, a merchant ship and Italian coast guard units. all obeying the same non-negotiable law: the law of the sea, which obliges to assist any person in distress at sea.
Eight days after fleeing the hell out of Libya, these 630 survivors are finally safe on land, in Spain, thanks to Aquarius and its crew of professional sailors, volunteer rescuers and aid workers.
The courage and resilience of these 630 shipwrecked, the professionalism and the deep humanity of the Aquarius crew should be commended, as well as the extraordinary support that SOS MEDITERRANEE has received from civil society in Spain and in the entire Europe.
Aquarius has become a concrete symbol for those in Europe who place the universal values of respect for human life, dignity and solidarity before any other consideration.
In this, the wandering and procrastination due to the closure of Italian ports, then the forced, dangerous and degrading odyssey of Aquarius in the Mediterranean must imperatively constitute a warning signal for European leaders. It is not tolerable for Europe that such a situation is repeated.
The inaction of the European states is criminal : it has killed more than 13,000 people in the Mediterranean since 2014, when, in the face of the tragedy of Lampedusa in 2013, the EU leaders had insurgent: "Never again!" . Europe carries these dead on her conscience.
SOS MEDITERRANEE once again calls on all EU Member States to take their responsibilities and make sea rescue a priority on their political agenda. They must immediately cooperate to develop a European model for search and rescue in the Mediterranean :
the search and rescue must be based on respect for human life above all other considerations , in accordance with international maritime law and humanitarian law;
those rescued at sea must be treated with dignity and humanity in lifeboats and receive all the care that their state of vulnerability requires until they have reached a safe harbor;
the competent maritime authorities must be able to respect their obligations of coordination and optimization of search and rescue operations;
a sufficient number of life-saving vessels , with the appropriate equipment and personnel, to be deployed in the Mediterranean, in order to provide extensive coverage of the distress zone;
the landing of rescued persons at the nearest security port must be ensured in all cases, without delay, in accordance with maritime regulations.
SOS MEDITERRANEE calls for a broad mobilization of civil society in Europe and the Mediterranean so that it transmits this message to its governing bodies.
Saving lives in distress is a legal and moral imperative. As long as human beings risk their lives at sea, SOS MEDITERRANEE will continue its mission in international waters at the gates of Europe to rescue, protect and testify.
For four years, more than 15,000 men, women and children have drowned in the Mediterranean trying to cross on makeshift boats. SOS MEDITERRANEE is a European citizens' association that charters a ship, the Aquarius, to help those who flee for their lives. In 28 months, 29,319 people were rescued, 23% of whom are minors.
Every day at sea costs 11,000 euros: more than 90% of our budget comes from private donations. We have the power to act: together, let's save lives in the Mediterranean Sea. Donate !
In VALENCIA (Spain): Sophie Rahal firstname.lastname@example.org
In PARIS: Laura Garel email@example.com