A new year means new beginnings, especially considering the past months, which have been very rocky. Our rescue operations were deliberately disrupted and targeted. This month we were forced to terminate the chartering contract for our rescue ship Aquarius by January, instead of renewing for another year. The risk that the Aquarius may be seized, would not be issued a new flag and thus not be able to return to sea, was simply too high. But SOS MEDITERRANEE’s work continues!
All our efforts are now focused on finding a suitable ship to return to the Mediterranean early next year to continue saving lives. We are specifically looking for a ship that can be in operation year-round, meaning also in winter. Which, secondly, has enough space for the professional care of survivors, for example, shelters for women and children and medical rooms, as our partners MSF had aboard the Aquarius. And thirdly, a ship which will allow us to document the situation in the Mediterranean even better. Hardly anyone knows what exactly is happening off the Libyan coast in the Mediterranean.
For this, we depend on the support of courageous shipping companies, who, by providing us with a ship, take a stance against the obstruction of civic sea rescue and who, just like us, will not accept the tragedy in the Mediterranean. Individual European States might continue to try and impede our work by, for example, closing their ports to our ship, or threatening flag states with sanctions, with the aim of having our flag withdrawn.
But even under this pressure, we will continue to brave these headwinds; our live-saving work continues! This year alone, we saved 3,381 people, fleeing across the Mediterranean Sea, from distress.
Since beginning our mission 34 months ago, we have saved 29,523 people from downing in the Mediterranean, 6,508 of whom were children. We are strengthened by thousands of people, who do not want people to die at Europe’s borders. In recent months, their support has taken them to the streets all across Europe, setting a clear sign against the indifference in the Mediterranean. In Germany, for example, after the Aquarius was stranded at sea in June, suddenly no longer being allowed to disembark in Italy, the orange “seabridge” movement formed and many solidarity marches took place.
Our mission to save lives and to report on the humanitarian tragedy at Europe’s borders has not changed! The situation in Libya remains catastrophic. To escape trafficking, rape and torture many people are left with no choice but to take the dangerous route across the Mediterranean. At least 2,160 people died in their attempt this year. We do not know exact numbers. But every woman, man and child that the European Union lets die at its external borders is one too many – and a shame for Europe.
We will not look away! More than ever we need your support: for a new ship, its conversion and professional upgrade and for other future challenges that may arise. Together, we can continue to defend humanity in the Mediterranean and provide humanitarian emergency assistance next year.
We hope you will continue to support us in the new year! On behalf of the entire SOS MEDITERRANEE team, we wish you a happy holiday season,
Your Verena Papke
Photo Credits: Kenny Karpov / SOS MEDITERRANEE