While many blame the rescue captains of refugee boats and activists for their initiatives, they do not know that the EU and its member states directly contribute to migration waves from Africa.
During the last weeks, German boat captain Carola Rackete made headlines all over the world. Together with the crew of volunteers of her Sea Watch 3, the 31-year-old woman rescued 53 refugees from a small dinghy in the Mediterranean in June. Two weeks after that incident, Rackete's ship, still carrying 40 refugees, defied authorities and docked in a small port in Sicily, Italy. As a result, she was welcomed with handcuffs.
Officially, the captain of the rescue ship was arrested for breaking an Italian naval blockade that was trying to stop her from docking the ship in Lampedusa. The ban was initiated by Italy's far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, a man who has become infamous for his harsh anti-migration policies and his xenophobic rhetoric in general.
Shortly after Germany called for the release of the Sea-Watch captain, Rackete was set free by an Italian judge, Alessandra Vella, who claimed that she had not broken any law. Vella also pointed out that Rackete had been carrying out her duty to protect human life. The release was a slap into the face of Salvini and his supporters.
However, Rackete still faces possible charges of helping illegal immigration, but the judge ordered her immediate release. Nevertheless, the controversy goes on, and while one side is celebrating Rackete as a heroine, others believe that she is equal to a criminal.
Europe's far-right parties and movement in particular have found a bogeyman. Even before Rackete was arrested, Salvini attacked her and other groups and NGOs who support and rescue refugees. “We will use every lawful means to stop an outlaw ship which puts dozens of migrants at risk for a dirty political game, " Salvini said in a Facebook video. Repeatedly, Salvini attacked Rackete specifically, calling her a “pirate” and a “criminal German”. After her release, the captain and activist announced she would take legal steps against the minister. In detail, Rackete's complaints says that Italy's interior minister spreads a “message of hatred” and participates in “vilification”, “delegitimisation” and “dehumanisation”. One of Rackete's aims is to prevent Salvini using social media channels like Facebook and Twitter.
Many people believe that Rackete is doing the right thing as she is saving the lives of those who are constantly ignored and dehumanised by the political leadership of most European countries. The Mediterranean Sea has become like a wall that regularly kills refugees. However, the criminalisation of refugee aiders just reached its recent peak in Europe with Rackete's case.
It's also the reason that another refugee and migration debate emerged in Germany and other European countries since Carola Rackete's release. “Can we really take all of them?” many ask in newspaper headlines and political debates.
In fact, Rackete herself is also participating in this debate very enthusiastically. Recently, she stated that Libya was not a safe country and that Europe needs to absorb all refugees from there. Additionally, Rackete demands the absorption of all climate refugees from African countries.
“In some African countries, basic food resources are being destroyed. This destruction is caused by industrialized countries in Europe. For that reason, Europe can no longer say 'that we do not want those people'. It's Europe's responsibility to take them, "she said.
It was obvious that such words would create anger among certain circles. Die Welt, a conservative German daily, described Rackete's demands as “irresponsible” while far-right politicians like Salvini continue to describe the German captain as a “crazy communist”.
Nevertheless, the truth is that Rackete was just describing a reality that many people in industrialised Western countries desperately try to suppress. It's the people who want to continue their lives in wealth and prosperity – lives that have been built on the poorness and the disasters of others. Additionally, large parts of this privileged class believe that young men from Libya, Syria or Somalia are going to “steal” their good lives from them. At the same time, they ignore the fact that the reason why these people suffered and left their home countries is directly connected to the political decisions made in the Western world.
To many people, this may sound exaggerated, but it solely reflects facts and reality. The ongoing crimes of European countries, especially France, in African countries like Libya and Mali are well-known. In Somalia, another African country, real pirates exist, and they have an infamous reputation. But what is largely ignored is the fact that many of these former fishermen became pirates after the European Union started to overfish the seas of the Somali coast and literally plundered one of the basic resources of the locals. These are just a few of the reasons why the fate of these people is connected with us, and why there is nothing wrong about saying that Europe has responsibility for many of the refugees who try to reach the “fortress”.
Disclaimer: The viewpoints expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, viewpoints and editorial policies of TRT World.
We welcome all pitches and submissions to TRT World Opinion – please send them via email, to email@example.com