Europe must not outsource sea rescue to Libya

The report "Places of Safety in the Mediterranean: The EU's Policy of Outsourcing Responsibility" of the Heinrich Böll Foundation points out that the North African Mediterranean states cannot be regarded as "safe havens" and that the EU cannot therefore outsource sea rescue to these states. This is particularly true for the civil war country Libya.

Seit 2014 sind über 20.000 Menschen auf der Flucht im Mittelmeer ertrunken. Die Mitgliedsstaaten der EU schaffen es nicht, sich auf ein gemeinsames Programm zur Seenotrettung zu einigen und akzeptieren den Tod dieser Menschen, damit so wenige von ihnen wie möglich Europa erreichen. Sie kooperieren mit kriminellen Milizen in Libyen und nehmen bewusst Grundrechtsverletzungen in Kauf. Manche Politiker*innen schlagen sogar vor, die Geflüchteten direkt nach Nordafrika, auch ins libysche Kriegsgebiet, abzuschieben.

Against this background, this study has important policy implications, noting that the EU and its member states cannot shirk their responsibility to save people in the Mediterranean.

Italy and Malta may not close ports

Die Politik von EU-Staaten wie Italien und Malta, ihre Häfen zu schließen und NGO-Schiffen den Zugang zu ihren Häfen zu verweigern, kostet Menschen das Leben und ist ebenso illegal wie die Verlagerung der Rettung auf Libyen.

The member states and the EU must rescue fugitives and migrants* and bring them to European ports, not only for moral reasons but also for legal ones. Your ports must remain open to rescue ships.

Deadliest route in the world

Die Route von Libyen nach Europa ist die tödlichste Migrationsroute der Welt. Der Hauptgrund hierfür ist, dass die EU ihre Rettungsaktivitäten im Mittelmeer eingestellt hat. Die Marineoperation Sophia, die mehr als 40.000 Migrant*innen und Geflüchteten das Leben rettete, beendete den Einsatz. Es gibt derzeit kein einziges staatliches Rettungsschiff im Mittelmeer.

Zivile Organisationen, die versuchen, diese Lücke zu schließen, werden häufig behindert, strafrechtlich verfolgt oder ihre Schiffe werden beschlagnahmt. Indem Europa jegliche Seenotrettung einstellt und auch aktiv die NGOs daran hindert, Leben zu retten, ist sie für den Tod von tausenden Menschen im Mittelmeer mitverantwortlich.

This study makes it clear that the EU and its member states cannot evade this responsibility by outsourcing sea rescue to Libya or other North African Mediterranean countries.

Libya and other states in North Africa are not safe havens

Libyen ist einer der unsichersten und gefährlichsten Orte für Geflüchtete weltweit. Von der libyschen Küstenwache abgefangene Personen werden in Lager gebracht, in denen sie unmenschlichen Bedingungen, Folter, Vergewaltigung, Ausbeutung und sogar willkürlichen Tötungen ausgesetzt sind.

The current European policy of supporting this Libyan coastguard and making it the doorman of Europe is deeply inhumane and violates international law, and the EU and its member states have a duty to take people to a safe place where their lives and safety are not threatened and where they are safe from persecution. 

The study shows that these safe havens exist only in Europe, which means that seven concrete political demands:

1. we need a European sea rescue mission!

The Member States must be proactive in carrying out rescue operations at sea by making ships and resources available, and the European Commission must coordinate them and provide financial support to Member States to improve their ability to save lives at sea. 

2. EU cooperation with the Libyan Coast Guard must be ended

Europe must not evade its obligations in sea rescue by shifting responsibility to a country that can under no circumstances be considered a safe place. The EU must stop cooperating with Libya. Instead of funding the Libyan coast guard, which is also an association of warlords, the EU should invest in its own sea rescue capabilities.

3. Menschen, die im Mittelmeer aus Seenot gerettet wurden, müssen nach Europa gebracht werden

the study shows that none of the north african Mediterranean states can generally be classified as a safe haven. for vulnerable groups such as LGBTI or other minorities, these states are not safe. since it is not feasible to determine which territories would be safe for people and which would not, on board the rescue ships, Europe cannot shirk its responsibility and must bring people to safe havens in Europe. this also applies to NGO ships. cooperation with the libyan coast guard is a violation of international law.

4. the criminalisation and intimidation of NGOs must stop

Ship captains* and crew members must not be prosecuted for rescuing people in distress at sea. These people are life-savers*, not criminals. The European Commission must decide that humanitarian aid must not be criminalised by the Member States.

5. the EU must work closely with NGOs

Civil organisations cannot exempt member states from their obligation to rescue people in distress themselves, but they can help save lives. The EU should support NGOs in the rescue effort by opening its ports to them, simplifying the registration of ships for sea rescue and informing them about emergencies.

6. Europe needs a reliable redistribution mechanism

The EU Commission must develop a solidarity-based and humanitarian alternative to the Dublin system, in which the rights and wishes of the refugees are respected. A high level of solidarity and readiness to receive refugees must also be promoted financially. In this context, the readiness of local and regional authorities and regions should be taken into account and supported with EU funds.

7. the EU must stop misusing development funds for migration prevention 

Die EU unterstützt die libysche Küstenwache über den EU-Treuhandfonds für Afrika. Das ist ein Missbrauch von Geldern, die eigentlich der Entwicklungszusammenarbeit dienen. Das Ziel der Entwicklungszusammenarbeit ist die Bekämpfung von Armut, nicht die Bekämpfung von Migration. Allgemein muss viel transparenter gemacht werden, wofür EU-Gelder in Drittländern verwendet werden.