SOS MEDITERRANEE criticises ‘Code of conduct’ for NGOs

SOS MEDITERRANEE criticises ‘Code of conduct’ for NGOs

SOS MEDITERRANEE is seriously concerned how Europe is responding to the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean Sea: with a ‘Code of conduct for NGOs’. Contrary to the failure of European states, SOS MEDITERRANNEE together with other NGOs have managed to establish effective structures for rescue. The envisioned code of conduct merely serves to fuel polemics and negative headlines that are currently being diffused, especially so in Italy.

Driven by the belief, that given a better coordination of rescue operations even more lives could be saved, SOS MEDITERRANEE and other NGOs working in the Central Mediterranean are already following a Voluntary Code of Conduct which is guided by international standards on maritime rescue operations. Also, as regulated by international maritime law, all rescue operations in the international waters off the Libyan coast are being coordinated by the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre in Rome (MRCC).

“What should one make of the fact that European states are for years consistently ignoring basic humanitarian needs? That calls for help of drowning men, women and children have been going unheard? That statements are discrediting the work of humanitarian organisations – organisations formed of members of the European civil society? That European states are passing the control over Europe’s external borders on to countries such as Libya – a state sinking into chaos, a state where human rights abuses are the order of the day?” asks Sophie Beau, Vice-President and Co-Founder of SOS MEDITERRANEE.

“However, instead asking oneself such questions, European states are funding units of the ‘Libyan coast guard’ who are, according to a recently published UN Security Council report, making common cause with networks of human trafficking. Anarchy is not brought about by rescue operations. Anarchy is already in place in Libya, a country lacking fundamental state structures, where human trafficking is daily fare,” she states.

Serious incidents with the ‘Libyan coast guard’ during rescue operations in international waters over the last months have repeatedly put people’s lives at risk. Equally affected were people in distress at sea, volunteers with SOS MEDITERRANEE and other European NGOs, as well as ships of Frontex and the Italian coast guard, as stated in Italian press. By handing over the reins to Libya, European states are being complicit in human rights abuses and violations of international law.

During a visit on the Aquarius in Catania, members of the European Parliament Terry Reintke (Germany) and Elly Schlein (Italy) voiced their indignation towards the proposal by the German, French and Italian Interior Ministers and underlined the necessity of civilian sea rescues. Victoria Kamadji, president of the Church Committee for Migrants in Europe (CCME), said: “The European Union may shut down their borders. It may try to keep people from coming to Europe. Those people will manage to find other ways and routes. What it may not do though, is to try to hinder people rescuing others from drowning at sea.”