Saving lives is not a crime

19 March 2018


Human Rights , Refuge City

Today I’ve been at the Port of Barcelona with Oscar Camps from Proactiva Open Arms to speak out about the situation of a vessel that has been detained in the Italian port of Pozzallo in Sicily. This group does essential humanitarian work, saving the lives of women, men, babies, the sick and those fleeing torture, rape, starvation and death. Incredibly, whilst carrying out such important work, the Italian prosecutor has today impounded their boat and accused the three crew members of people trafficking and criminal association.

Also at the Port of Barcelona port today were Jordi Évole, Joan Manuel Serrat and Jordi Villacampa, and we all agreed that to see people who put everything they have into saving lives detained and accused means the world has been turned on its head. These people are doing what European governments should be doing: avoiding deaths in the Mediterranean. The Open Arms vessel sails under the Spanish flag and was detained in an Italian port, but we have heard nothing from the Spanish government, which is always so keen on flag-waving, to demand protection for those who protect. It is important that we all raise our voices to speak out against the Open Arms situation.

It is important because this it is not an isolated incident, it is part of a campaign to criminalise those who, in recent years, have taken to the sea at various points around the Mediterranean with the altruistic motive of saving lives. These people have highlighted how Europe is complicit in refugee deaths and suffering. These are the people who have kept hope in our society and its capacity for empathy alive. Today they are the ones who need us. Over the last two years in Barcelona we have supported them in different ways. A month ago we launched the campaign #SafePassageBarcelona. This campaign was driven by the idea that if anything happens to these boats, Barcelona is also affected and responds. These vessels and the people who devote their time to rescuing people represent us, they are ambassadors for a lot of people and for Barcelona too, a city that has always been committed to human rights and the Mediterranean.

For this reason, we are working to provide legal support and anything else they need. Just as in the case of Helena Maleno, now is the time to support them and to demand that the Spanish government offer them its full support. Now is the time for every one of us to ensure the message is heard loud and clear; that saving lives is not a crime and that we will not allow those who save lives to be criminalised.

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