Thick board 2 - Criminalisation of civil society and refugee helpers

In this episode I talk to Hendrik Simon, who is facing up to 20 years in prison for saving lives in the Mediterranean as part of the Iuventa crew, and Sean Binder, who was in prison in Greece for over three months for saving and helping people in the Aegean.

This is not worthy of the European Union, which is why I have invited these two and many other activists to Brussels to talk about how to end the criminalisation of aid workers. They deserve our thanks, not jail.

"We are facing up to 20 years in prison and up to €15,000 fine per person we rescued from the Mediterranean."

Henrik Simon

"I spent over three months in prison for trying to help people."

Sean Binder

Link list to the show 

Study proves: Migration to Europe independent of sea rescue

The "Migration Policy Center" comes in the study "Sea Rescue NGOs: a Pull Factor of Irregular Migration?"concludes that people don't get on dinghies in the rubber dinghies in the Mediterranean because there are rescue ships there. This confirms the results of previous studies, such as "Death by Rescue"[ Door Closes ] And... Border Deaths in the Mediterranean.

The present study has investigated for the period from 2014 to October 2019, whether there is a correlation between the presence of NGOs and the number of people who set off from Libya on their way across the across the Mediterranean Sea towards Italy is related. The is not the case. The evaluation took place month by month over the period of five years. During this time, the political situation on the Mediterranean Sea has changed dramatically several times. Instead of rescuing people from distress at sea rescue people from distress at sea, civilian aid organisations have had to take over this task in recent years. have had to take over this task in recent years. But their work is not only made more difficult – often they are criminalised and intimidated for their humanitarian work and intimidated. This is often coupled with accusations that the sea rescue is increasing the number of people fleeing Libya. But the study shows once again that this connection does not exist.

There are understandable motives that force people on the dangerous crossing. Libya is a politically disrupted state, where refugees and migrants from refugees and migrants from sub-Saharan Africa are threatened by torture, enslavement, sexual abuse and existential poverty. The people don't get on the rubber dinghies because there are boats to rescue them. There but more people die when there are no ships to rescue them.

In most cases, people do not wear life jackets and are not equipped with communication or navigation tools navigation equipment. Many cannot swim. The completely overcrowded boats are usually unable to reach the next safe place on their own. reach the next safe place. This alone puts people in distress at sea.

There is no evidence to support the assertion that people make their escape presence of lifeboats, there is no evidence. Nevertheless such connections are repeatedly brought into the discussion. Thus the FDP recently claimed in a Tweet of October 8, 2019, that Seehofer's promise, to take in people rescued from distress at sea in Germany would drive more people on the Mediterranean Sea.

Spiegel Online writes under the title: "More rescuers, more refugees - why this is so not true", which the results of the previous studies, which are now confirmed by the new study. confirmed by the new study. The migration scientist Matteo Villa collected data on how many migrants departed from the Libyan coast from the beginning of January to the end of June 2019, and Libyan coast and on how many of those days boats from private sea rescue sea rescue NGOs were in operation. His conclusion is that on the 31 days that NGOs were operating in the Mediterranean, the tugboats sent an average of sent 32.8 people out to sea; on the 150 days when no NGOs were present, the tugboats were present, the traffickers sent an average of 34.6 people on their way. Villa's conclusion, according to Spiegel Online: "The pull factor does not exist."


Sea Rescue NGOs: a Pull Factor of Irregular Migration?

Death by Rescue

Border Deaths in the Mediterranean

Inhumane conditions at Croatia's external EU border

At the beginning of August I visited the Bosnian city Bihać on the EU's external border and saw conditions there that are absolutely inhumane. The place has become a bottleneck for people seeking protection because they can't get any further from here. In Bihać you can see homeless refugees everywhere on the street because there is not enough space in the shelters. 

even worse is the situation in the informal camp Vučjak, which is located on a former garbage dump in the middle of nowhere. people are being driven up like cattle by the police, surrounded by mosquitoes and land mines. far too many men are crammed together in tents that are far too small, even the water has been turned off there in the meantime. the red cross is still distributing small lunch packages, but they are not enough. medical care is no longer available there after a team of volunteers led by the german photographer Dirk Planert was expelled from the country. the reason: they did not have a work permit. however, you cannot get a work permit either, because it is not an official camp. the conditions there are so bad that iom and unhCR do not want to become active, because they say that this would be tantamount to recognition of the camp. yet this camp should not exist at all. 

Although minors enjoy special protection, children are also included in Vučjak. I spoke to an eleven-year-old who told me that he was forcibly returned to Bosnia-Herzegovina by the Croatian border police. What should I tell this eleven-year-old child about the EU community of values?

Escaped shows us his destroyed smartphone.

The Croatian police cannot simply send people seeking protection back to Bosnia-Herzegovina. Anyone who crosses the border into the EU has the right to apply for asylum. But this right is literally being trampled underfoot. A report by Amnesty International documents how the Croatian police mistreat people. In addition, their money is taken from them, their mobile phones are destroyed and some even have their shoes taken away. These are not excesses by individual police officers. This is systematic violence ordered from above. Individual police officers have already addressed Croatian media and said that they will be threatened with sanctions if they refuse to use this brutality against fugitives. 

It would be the task of the EU Commission to clearly identify this daily breach of law and, in addition to border protection, to ensure that an independent control authority is set up at the border. But the Commission has so far turned a blind eye. When Ursula von der Leyen travelled to Croatia shortly after her election as Commission President, she did not mention the daily breach of law at the EU's external border. The Commission also spoke out in favour of admitting Croatia into the Schengen area. I too would like Croatia to become a member of the Schengen area soon. But I would also like us to ensure that basic human rights are respected at Croatia's EU external border before then. Croatia will take over the EU Council Presidency on 1 January and the hard winter is approaching for the people in Vučjak and Bihać. 

I, along with other Members of Parliament, have expressed this criticism in a letter to the Commission, and we have asked it to work to improve the situation.

We must do everything in our power to find a quick solution and prevent people there from freezing to death on our external border. This situation deserves more attention. We must help Bosnia-Herzegovina to provide decent housing for people, but we must also demand that Bosnia-Herzegovina work on a sustainable solution. In addition, the illegal and violent deportations by the Croatian border police must stop.

Everyone deserves dignified treatment, regardless of their passport, and in Europe everyone has the right to an asylum procedure based on the rule of law.

Further information

„Scaling Fences“: Migration to Europe scientifically investigated

Earlier this week, the UN published a study entitled "Scaling Fences", which questioned some 3000 people from 43 African countries who have come to Europe in recent years. 

What is special about the study is that it is not about people who cite war and persecution as reasons for fleeing, but rather about those who left their homes in search of a better life but had no legal means of entering the country.

The findings of the study are exciting. those who leave their home countries are better educated than average, earning 60 percent more than the average in their home countries. 

The main reason most people cite for their migration is that they are looking for better jobs. the second most common reason cited is poor governance and the security situation in the countries of origin. So it is often young and well-educated people who migrate to democratic countries from corruption and autocracy. 

Having arrived in Europe, most of them work below their qualifications. a fifth of men work as fruit and vegetable pickers, a third of women as cleaners or domestic helpers. many are employed informally and earn less than the minimum wage. because they are not allowed to work but have to work, they are particularly often victims of exploitation. 

Most of the respondents stated that they knew about the dangers of the journey. 41 per cent nevertheless said that there was nothing that could have dissuaded them from the journey. only two per cent said that they would not have set out on the journey if they had known in advance how dangerous the journey would be. 91 per cent of the respondents said that they had come to Europe by sea. 

These figures also show that we must finally recognise migration as a reality and start working on a better migration policy instead of working on isolation. 

Another main motive for migration is the will to support families in the countries of origin. 78 percent support their families with remittances, but this comes at a high price for them. this includes exploitation on the labour market, racism and poor housing conditions. more than seven years after their arrival, 12 percent of those interviewed are homeless. 

For me, this study shows that we need to stop forcing people into overcrowded rubber dinghies in search of a better life. We need agreements with the countries of origin and a quota for legal migration for people we need in our ageing societies. We need an expansion of study programmes that enable people from African countries of origin to train and study in Europe, including temporary work visas that allow people to enter legally, work legally and later return to their countries of origin. Many people will return to their countries of origin with new know-how. Others will stay in Europe and support their countries of origin with remittances. This is also a way towards sustainable and effective development cooperation from which the countries of Europe and Africa can benefit.

The worst thing we can do is to ignore the reality of migration and try desperately to seal ourselves off from the rest of the world in a "Fortress Europe". 

Sea Rescue – My first speech in the European Parliament

Here you can find my first speech: I will continue to fight for search and rescue at sea and for safe and legal channels for asylum seekers and migrants to Europe.

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