social justice

On European shores

The bridge leading towards this lighthouse was destroyed by the Italian army during WWII. It is a reminder of how precious and fragile peace is. Not all of us can live in peace right now.

For 18 (!) days, the NGO rescue vessels Sea-Watch 3 and Sea Eye, carrying 49 migrants, are stuck in Maltese shores. Malta and Italy refuse permission for the vessels to enter. The migrants onboard suffer from dehydration and seasickness. There is a high risk of re-traumatization.

Maltese NGO issued a press release urging their government to let the vessels enter the harbor:

“The standard argument these days is that migrants rescued at sea should be returned to Libya, even if we know that they will be imprisoned in horrible conditions, tortured, raped, or sold as slaves. This is a flagrant violation of our freely assumed commitment to ensure that no one is returned to a country where their safety is not guaranteed and where they are at risk of torture or other violations of their rights.”

Last week, I experienced myself how cold and rough the weather can be in this part of Europe. On the Maltese islands, there is a lack of space inside the shelters for migrants. Migrant women were temporarily moved to the Ħal Far centre, a men’s compound, because of overcrowding.

This is 2019. This is Europe. And this is a shame. The arrival of migrants on European shores is not a new phenomena. It is unbelievable that the EU is still not able to find a quick solution.

What to do?

The biggest issues are the lack of solidarity between European countries and the hierarchical structure of the political systems. Of course, Malta lacks the capcity to accomodate all rescued migrants and process their asylum applications. However, some European cities already annouced that they would take them in. For example: Neaple, Palermo, Livorno, Berlin, Bremen, Hamburg, Marburg, and Heidelberg. The initiative SolidarityCities advocates for a bigger involvenment of European cities in the management of migration.

The EU could easily implement a database for all European cities and villages in which they announce if they are willing to take in migrants, when and how many. Such kind of database could be implemented within one week. However, the top-down policy of European countries and the EU system is not working towards such pragmatic solutions yet. Instead, many European politicians prefer to stay silent and look away.

What can you do?

There are plenty of Maltese NGOs which advocate for human rights and deliver direct help to migrants. They need donations, media coverage, and volunteers. Get in touch with them if you want to help. For example: aditus foundation, African Media Association Malta, Christian Life Community (CLC) Malta, Cross Culture International Foundation (CCIF), Integra Foundation, JRS Malta, Malta Emigrants Commission, Malta LGBTIQ Rights Movement, Migrant Women Association Malta, People for Change Foundation, Platform of Human Rights Organisations in Malta (PHROM), SOS Malta, Spark 15, The Critical Institute, and the Women’s Rights Foundation Malta.


More information:

  • Statement issued by Maltese NGOs
  • Interview (in German) with Jan Ribbeck who is onboard the Sea Eye

3 comments on “On European shores

  1. Agreed, agreed and agreed. However, to use a german figure of speech – the fish stinks from the head (on down). After many years of watching this disgrace, I think the EU must regroup. Change its membership laws to allow majority votes on everything, rather than unanimous votes. Allow ways to remove recalcitrant states that clearly have no interest in the idea of solidarity, and then move to act on these new rules. I think, after a short amount of time to rethink strategy, the EU would lose a good part of the east (Romania, Hungary, Czeck Republik, but possibly not Poland) and receive new commitment from countries now beleaguered with populist regimes – Italy, Holland, maybe even France and possibly Greece. I do believe that when the choice were laid on the table, people and governments might see the advantages they have been enjoying, rather than listening to the populist demagogues that seem to be everywhere these days. Then start again and put the EU on the kind of solid foundation that was put in words some time ago in America:

    „Give me your tired, your poor,
    Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

    The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
    Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me:
    I lift my lamp beside the golden door.“
    excerpt from “The new Colossus” by Emma Lazarus,1883

    • Thank you so much for your comment, Alex! I agree with your opinion. There needs to be a reform of the EU, including a bottom-up approach. In fact, there are some new pan-European parties which want to make this happen. Hopefully, they get more media coverage and many votes in May.

  2. Reblogged this on Travel Blog.

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