Yesterday 19th of July, the last events of the July Boats4People campaign took place in Lampedusa. While an in-depth evaluation of the campaign and the planning of next steps will take place in the coming weeks, we may already say that the campaign was a success. These last weeks were however marked by several tragic events that prove that the closure of the EU’s maritime borders remains as deadly as ever.
One year ago, in response to the growing number of deaths at sea that occurred despite the heightened surveillance deployed towards the international military intervention in Libya, the idea of a solidarity boat and campaign to demand an end to the deadly closure of the EU’s maritime borders emerged. The challenge of organising such a campaign was taken up by the coalition of organisations that form Boats4People and this vision finally became a reality that we experienced during the last three weeks.
Boats4People’s Oloferne travelled from Rosignano to Palermo, Panteleria, Monastir, Ksibet el Mediouni and Lampedusa, linking both shores of the Mediterranean in an impressive movement of solidarity. At every stage of its travel, intense meetings occurred between migrants, activists, journalists and politicians. B4P gathered in particular with Tunisian families of dead and disappeared migrants who demand information and justice, as well as with the refugees and rejected of the Choucha camp in Tunisia who demand protection, resettlement and better living conditions. In all these encounters we heard a common demand echo throughout the Mediterranean : “EU, end your deadly closure ! Freedom of movement and solidarity now !” The sound of this call spread further throughout Europe in actions organised in Calais, Strasbourg, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Paris, Amsterdam, Tilburg, etc.
If we feel empowered by this collective experience, the three weeks of the B4P campaign were also marked by several tragic incidents, gathered by B4P reporters disseminated throughout the Mediterranean and collected on the WatchTheMed mapping platform. During this time we collected information of 94 migrants arriving in Malta and 314 on the Italian coast (60 in Lampedusa, 62 in Portopalo, 40 in Pozzalo, 25 on the coast of Calabria and 127 in Bari). But on the 3rd of July, only the day after the Oloferne set sail, at least 3 people died when a boat carrying 22 people capsized near Monastir. We then received a still to be verified report of a boat carrying 89 migrants sinking shortly after it left Tripoli, with which close to half the passengers may have perished. Finally, a B4P delegation met with the sole survivor amongst 56 migrants, who, after the boat lost air and capsized of the Libyan coast, remained alone adrift for 14 days until he was rescued near Zarzis on the 10th of July. These deaths – which add to the 13.448documented at sea between 1988 and May 2012 – are deaths by policy. They are the victims of the EU’s migration regime that transforms the sea into a liquid and deadly border for the majority of non-Europeans. B4P will continue to inquire into these and similar incidents to shed led on possible violations and the deep political responsibility of the EU.
B4P’s Oloferne did not encounter any migrants in distress while at sea, but its passengers were able to verify first hand the extent of the means deployed to secure the EU’s maritime border. On the 15th of July the Oloferne was overflown by a Frontex patrol aircraft and subsequently stopped by a patrol boat of the Italian Coast Guard for identification. This encounter also gives its meaning to the B4P campaign, for as long as Frontex and national agencies cloak their activities in opacity, a presence at sea will be the only means of accessing detailed information as to their deployment.
Press contacts :
Filippo Miraglia (Italiano) : 0039 348 44 10 860
Nicanor Haon (French - English - Spanish) : 00216 52 70 18 71 (Tunisian number)/ 0039 328 29 37 198 (Italian number)
Lorenzo Pezzani (Italiano - English) : 0039 340 77 51 303