The Catholic peace movement Pax Christi criticizes the obstruction or prevention of civilian sea rescue of refugees and migrants in the Mediterranean Sea. The new federal chairwoman explains her demands here.
Interviewer: What does civilian rescue at sea actually mean??
Stefanie Wahl (Pax Christi national chair): Actually, sea rescue is a state task. But because of the situation in the Mediterranean, civilian organizations there have taken on this governmental task as well. Also because in recent years the Pope has called for people to be rescued at sea. Civilian sea rescue is needed because a government deficit has been identified and because EU policy has just not expanded sea rescue enough. Therefore, quite a few civil society organizations are now active on the Mediterranean Sea. They try to fulfill this actually state task with their ships and helpers.
Interviewer: And why comes just now the appeal of Pax Christi?
Election: This summer, the situation regarding civilian rescue at sea has become more serious. The discourse has changed, although the situation on the Mediterranean is no different than in previous years. In the first half of this year, according to the International Organization for Migration, we have already seen over 1.500 deaths in the Mediterranean to mourn; and this despite the civilian rescue at sea. And in the summer Malta and Italy closed their ports to civilian rescue at sea. Sea rescue ships with rescued people on board were refused entry to ports. This sent a political signal that action was being taken against civilian rescue at sea. Ships were fixed, sea surveillance was partly stopped and thus rescuers were extremely hindered in their work.
Interviewer: What do you specifically demand from politics??
choice: Our demands are primarily directed at the federal government. Because as a member state in the EU, Germany supports this policy at the European external borders. Our main concern is to show solidarity with the sea rescuers, who are performing a governmental task and who must not be hindered in their work. Humanity must once again come first. The need for protection of people seeking protection must again be put in the foreground and not the securing of external borders.
Interviewer: The accusation that smugglers speculate on the fact that already somewhere sea rescuers will be ready to take up the people emerges again and again. Is there something to it in your eyes?
Election: No, this is an insinuation. This is a strategy to denigrate and criminalize the civilian rescue at sea. This also happened in practice. But there are studies that refute this connection. The fact is that the number of rescuers on the Mediterranean does not increase the number of refugees, but above all the number of deaths decreases. And that’s the measure of it.
Interviewer: Now autumn comes, the sea becomes more restless and colder. Experience so far has shown that fewer people then embark on this life-threatening journey. What do you expect in this regard?
Election: This is what the last years have shown. But I am worried about what this means politically, if then the Mediterranean is no longer so much in the focus of the public – but at the same time politically it is further worked on that the Mediterranean route is closed and other states are to take over the tasks. The name Libya comes up again and again. Here, there is simply an attempt to shift responsibility away from the EU to non-EU states, and without taking into account the situation of the people affected. It also distracts from the real big ie, namely fighting the causes of flight. This should be the real goal of politics.
The interview was conducted by Uta Vorbrodt.