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This week, MEPs from the Civil Liberties Committee delegation will travel to Lampedusa from 19 to 22 June to assess search and rescue challenges in the Central Mediterranean.

Representing the Left in the European Parliament, Cornelia Ernst (Die Linke, Germany) will meet representatives from Italian maritime authorities, Frontex, and NGOs involved in search and rescue. Ernst will also visit a reception centre and attend a demonstration of a search and rescue operation.

On the occasion of World Refugee Day, 20 June, Cornelia Ernst will also visit The Aurora, the boat operated by the Sea-Watch, which has been detained on the island of Lampedusa since 14 June after rescuing 39 people. The reason given by the authorities was that the ship’s crew had disregarded the Meloni-government’s anti-rescue decree.

The mission takes place after the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties Committee raised its concerns with Commissioner Johansson that the decree “could have a significant impact on the right to life enshrined in the Charter of fundamental rights, as civilian rescue ships are now being required to immediately head to an assigned Italian port after each rescue, while other people could be at distress at sea and be in need of rescue.”

Cornelia Ernst said: “It’s 10 years since the EU said “never again” following the Lampedusa shipwreck, but little has changed. Right-wing and conservative forces across the EU exploited human suffering, stoking fear to win votes. The EU has spent billions fortifying violent borders and lining the pockets of warlords, militias and dictatorships all to keep people out instead of providing safe and legal access to the EU or fulfilling their duty to save lives at sea. Instead they criminalise civilian search and rescue.

Pylos, Cutro, Lampedusa: the EU’s migration policy is killing people. This week, we will visit Lampedusa and speak to all those involved in search and rescue operations. We have to change course: EU funded search and rescue, end criminalisation of NGO boats and safe and legal pathways to the EU now!”

On October 3, 2013 after a fire broke out on a fishing boat that had set off from Libya on the world’s deadliest migration route. The boat, which carried almost 500 people looking for better lives in Europe, capsized only hundreds of meters from shore. More than 300 people died. The visit takes place also in the context of the recent Pylos disaster, where 78 people lost their lives and hundreds are still missing. The Left demands a full and independent investigation into this disaster and requested a plenary debate in the presence of European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen.

The International Organisation for Migration reports that over 27,000 people have gone missing or died in the Mediterranean since 2014. As many 84 per cent of those who perish trying to cross the Mediterranean are officially unidentified. Every life lost at sea is a catastrophe that can be avoided.

Photo credit: Chris Grodotzki / Sea-Watch.org

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