We, members of civil society, are joining the crew of the Aquarius, the last active civil rescue ship in the Central Mediterranean, in demanding that all States in Europe uphold the duty to save lives in distress at sea prior to any political considerations and in full respect of applicable international law. We call upon all States in Europe to:
- Take all measures available to allow the Aquarius to resume its life-saving mission as soon as possible,
- Comply with the duty to render assistance to people in distress at sea,
- Assume their responsibilities by establishing an effective European rescue model in the Mediterranean.
Why this is important
The Aquarius has been operating in the Central Mediterranean for 31 months, saving 29,523 lives in more than 230 rescue operations. In the last months, political manoeuvres have deliberately tried to stop the Aquarius’ search and rescue mission. The ship has been de-flagged twice in a month’s time, first losing the Gibraltar flag and then the Panamanian flag. If the Aquarius cannot operate, more people will die at Europe’s doorstep and their lives will be lost in silence, while Europe chooses to close its eyes.
For these reasons, we call upon all States in Europe to utilise any and all measures at their disposal, to allow the Aquarius to resume its life-saving mission by issuing a new flag without undue delay.
Over the last months, seafarers and rescuers of civil rescue ships have witnessed worrying policy developments around the Central Mediterranean. Developments that are incompatible with international and maritime law. Civil rescue ships are being hindered from saving lives; the duty to render assistance to people in distress at sea is no longer being respected. Solidarity and humanity are being criminalised, at sea and on land.
For these reasons, we call upon all States in Europe to comply with the duty to render assistance to people in distress and denounce manoeuvres aimed at criminalising rescuers and aid-workers.
Together with other civil rescue ships, the Aquarius continued its mission in response to the failure of European States to respond to the humanitarian tragedy unfolding in the Mediterranean Sea, the deadliest migratory route in the world. Rescue means are desperately needed for people in distress as sea, as they risk their lives fleeing human rights violations in Libya. Even more, since June, the process of assigning a place of safety for the disembarkation of all rescued people has been fraught with pitfalls.
For these reasons, we call upon all States in Europe to set up an effective European rescue model, including a predictable and sustainable mechanism to disembark people rescued at sea in a place of safety.
Human beings are dying. The Aquarius, with the support of civil society, tries to save them. Join us by signing the petition to help us continue upholding humanitarian values and humanity at sea.
Support SOS MEDITERRANEE and sign now the petition here.