Demand Urgent Action to Save Refugees in Distress at Sea

Demand Urgent Action to Save Refugees in Distress at Sea

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Tegan Hill started this petition to Jeremy Hunt and

At this moment 47 refugees – including 8 unaccompanied minors – are stuck at sea in need of urgent help as European countries refuse to open ports & provide safety. The refugees, escaping inhumane conditions in Libya, were rescued by Sea-Watch 3 search and rescue boat on the 19th January. Brendan Woodhouse, Sea-Watch 3 crew member, is on the boat now and reports “I’ve heard stories of torture, ransom demands, extortion, slavery and incredible levels of abuse”. Italy and Malta are refusing to take responsibility and provide a port of safety.

These rejections of help from European countries came just 1 day after what is being described as one of the deadliest disasters in the Mediterranean Sea; 117 refugees including a 2 month old baby are presumed dead after their rubber boat sank off the coast of Libya. Meanwhile, Spain are actively preventing humanitarian search & rescue boat, Proactiva Open Arms, to launch in the central Mediterranean. The charity's founder stated 'Preventing us from saving lives is irresponsible and cruel'. 

The UN refugee agency states its concern ‘that actions by states are increasingly deterring NGOs from conducting search and rescue operations’. The UNHCR also reports that 2200 people died last year trying to cross the Mediterranean; one of the most dangerous routes refugees take in a desperate attempt to reach safety.

Brendan summarises the current situation at sea; “The deliberate and conscious criminalisation of humanitarian rescue ships in the Central Mediterranean Sea has already led to the removal of pretty much all of the charity rescue ships. Right, now we are the only ones there!” 

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees has stated ‘We cannot turn a blind eye to the high numbers of people dying on Europe’s doorstep’. 

I have spent the last few years volunteering with refugees and through this work; I met fellow humanitarian volunteers, like Brendan, completing search & rescue operations. Currently Sea-Watch 3 is staffed by 4 UK volunteers alongside those from Germany, Portugal, Switzerland, Bulgaria, the Netherlands & Italy. Like the UK’s beloved RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution); these people are putting their lives at risk to save the lives of those in distress at sea. They are united by their common belief that all those in distress at sea – regardless of nationality, ethnicity or background – deserve to be saved. 

Europe often claims to be a beacon for human rights; an example to the world. Yet its current refusal of help to refugees is in contravention to International Humanitarian Law and The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Refugees in distress at sea are escaping war, persecution and situations many of us can’t even imagine. They have been exploited & lied to by people traffickers and lack access to legal, safe routes to safety.

In response to this crack down on NGOs saving lives at sea and a failure of humane policies across Europe; we launch this European wide petition calling on our political representatives to take urgent action to save lives at sea. We the citizens of European countries unite to say that Europe is open to refugees!

We call on our European governments to:

  • Intervene, provide assistance & ports of safety to all people in distress at sea
  • To act to ensure NGO search and rescue operations are facilitated and never denied permission to sail & save lives at sea
  • To recognise that refugees in distress at sea, like any other person, deserve to be saved & act upon this
  • To implement & adhere to legal, humanitarian corridors and safe resettlement programmes which enable refugees to realise their legal right to claim asylum in a safe country.

Reflecting on the 117 deaths at sea, Brendan stated; “If Sea Eye were allowed to sail, or the Lifeline, or the Luventa for that matter, or any of the rescue ships that have been removed from the sea, then we would have worked together to make sure as much of this sea was covered as possible”. Lets make sure rescue ships are allowed to operate again & prevent the unnecessary loss of lives at sea. 

Ways you can help now:

  • SIGN & SHARE with friends, family, colleagues, on social media, by email, text & Whatsapp!
  • Join our Facebook Group, contact me directly here and look out for our campaign launch on Instagram & Twitter... 
  • We must urge our politicians to take action to ensure refugees are brought to safety. Email your political representatives in your country & MEPs! See the Facebook group for a sample letter. 

More information about the petition:
Our last campaign to get 32 refugees on Sea-Watch 3 to safety put pressure on the UK & European governments to get the 49 refugees stuck on Sea-Watch & Sea Eye rescue boats to safety and resettled across Europe. Yet, the story is far from over. This petition is intended to address the wider issues leading to refugees being stuck at sea in dangerous conditions. It will be updated regularly to reflect the current situation for NGOs & refugees at sea and will continue to campaign for our demands until they are met!  

The petition currently directly calls for action from government ministers of the following countries; Italy, Malta, Germany, France, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, The Netherlands, Luxembourg, Belgium, Denmark, Greece, Switzerland, Austria, Iceland, Romania, Czech Republic, Croatia, Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria & the UK.
(If you don’t see your European country here – please get in touch through the Facebook group for it to be added!)

0 have signed. Let’s get to 1,500!
At 1,500 signatures, this petition is more likely to get picked up by local news!