Carola Rackete, captain of the sea-rescue ship Sea Watch 3, was arrested on 29 June on the Italian island of Lampedusa. Her crime? Saving more than 40 lives at sea. We must be clear about this: People who save lives will never be criminals. People who put their own freedom at risk to ensure the safety and survival of others will never be criminals. This rule applies everywhere, and first and foremost, in Europe, where we regularly celebrate our common values of freedom, humanity and democracy. 1.5 million Euros have already been crowd-funded by Italian and German initiatives to support the sea rescue mission of Sea-Watch and the legal fees for Carola.
On 2 July the court ruled that Carola was fulfilling her duty of rescuing lives at sea and was thus released, though she remains under investigation for allegedly “facilitating irregular migration”. She has also been expelled from Italy for “endangering national security”. In fact, she was upholding international and Italian law by rescuing people and bringing them to a safe port. As the captain of a ship, it was her duty under the Law of the Sea to do so. It was Italy and Malta who violated these laws by refusing her a port. SOLIDAR insists that sea rescue and the reception of asylum seekers is a common European responsibility that must not be left solely to the Mediterranean countries. Sending people back to Libya is not an option as arbitrary detention and torture await them when they return.
The new hardline Italian security decree, enthusiastically proposed by Matteo Salvini, involves new powers given to him, as Minister of the Interior, to restrict access to territorial waters for ships transporting irregular migrants. Should the captain ignore such an order, fines ranging between 10,000 and 50,000 Euros may be imposed. The decree still has to be adopted in the Italian Parliament, and SOLIDAR calls on all Italian MPs not to pass this law that ruthlessly attempts to stop the work of NGOs and thereby deliberately let people die at sea.
SOLIDAR repeats that saving lives at sea is an act of courage, humanity and deserves our admiration. The only reasonable thing is to celebrate Rackete’s actions and not to criminalise them. We stand in solidarity with Sea-Watch and many other organisations and individuals that uphold our conscience and call on European leaders to practice the values of solidarity and humanity. It is our common responsibility to support those who not only rescue the lives of others, but also save our morality and dignity. History will be our judge.