Boats 4 People is an international coalition of organizations from the Mediterranean, Africa and Europe, established in 2012 to end deaths at maritime borders and to defend migrants’ rights at sea. They advocate freedom of movement for all.
Today, the Mediterranean acts as a route into Europe for migrants seeking survival and a chance of a better life. Some are rescued at sea in tragic circumstances by agencies of European states, only to meet with detention and deportation. In most cases, migrants in distress at sea are left adrift or are intercepted and “pushed back” to countries in the Southern Mediterranean.
As a result of the conflict in Libya, almost one million African, Asian and Middle Eastern migrants fled to neighbouring Tunisia, Egypt, Chad and Niger. The European Union and member states adopted a repressive approach. The EU border control agency Frontex launched an operation to intercept migrants in the Strait of Sicily. Increasing evidence demonstrates that NATO and states participating in the NATO operation in Libya failed to respond to distress calls from migrants off the Libyan coast. The war in Libya is supposedly over, but the war on migrants continues, each shipwreck adding to the more than 1500 migrants who died in the Mediterranean in 2011 (source: UNHCR).
Kaddafi and Ben Ali may have been overthrown, but so far, the transitional authorities in Libya and Tunisia have not broken with past migration policy. On the contrary, migration agreements are already being concluded with the EU and member states without transparency and emigration continues to be criminalised and migrants in transit continue to be arbitrarily detained. Military boats intercept migrants off the Tunisian and Libyan coasts with the consent of European authorities and camps such as the refugee camp in Choucha, Tunisia are now being used to detain migrants intercepted at sea. Migrants in the Choucha camp and in Italian detention centres are protesting against violations of their rights. Families of missing Tunisian migrants have organized sit-ins in Tunisia and Italy to demand information on the whereabouts of their loved ones.
European and African governments continue to violate international agreements concerning unconditional rescue at sea, asylum and international protection, with almost complete impunity.
BOATS 4 PEOPLE calls upon:
– The EU to end its violent control of maritime borders
– Governments of Africa to break with the past and to refuse to sign readmission agreements with European countries and the EU, as these agreements result in violations of migrants’ human rights.
– All countries to stop prosecuting those who rescue migrants, in accordance with the law of the sea under which all sailors must “proceed with all possible speed to the rescue of persons in distress” (art. 98 of the United Nations Conventions on the Law of the Sea).
Together they aim to:
– Build a network of organizations and activists on both shores of the Mediterranean and beyond to fight criminal State policies that violate human rights at sea;
– Build a network of sailors to alert violations of migrants’ human rights at sea (WatchTheMed);
– Bring charges against State agents, NATO or Frontex for violations of migrants’ human rights;
– Organize sea missions to document, denounce and prevent violations of migrants’ human rights at sea;
– Mobilize people in the Mediterranean, Africa and European so that the Mediterranean becomes a place of solidarity and ceases to be a mass grave for migrants.