Only days after EU leaders agreed to further erode the right to asylum

Excerpts from an open letter signed by over 180 human rights organizations and initiatives together with Tima Kurdi, aunt of Alan Kurdi. 

Today on World Refugee Day, we jointly demand full and independent investigations into the events, clear consequences for those responsible, an end to the systematic pushback practices at the European borders, and justice for the victims.

10 years after the two shipwrecks off Lampedusa, Italy, killing around 600 people and causing an immense public outcry, up to 600 people drowned off Pylos, Greece, in the Mediterranean Sea. On June 14, 2023, once again, the European border regime killed people exercising their right to seek protection. We are shaken! And we stand in solidarity with all survivors and with the families and friends of the deceased. We express our deep condolences and grief.

So far, uncountable questions remain unanswered. According to testimonies of the survivors, the Hellenic coast guard towed the boat, causing it to capsize. Why was this incredibly dangerous manoeuvre attempted at all? Did the Hellenic coast guard tow the boat toward Italy to push people forward into Italian or Maltese responsibility? Why did neither the Hellenic coast guard nor the Italian or Maltese authorities intervene earlier, even though they were alerted at least 12 hours before? What role did the European border and coast guard agency Frontex play?

In all this uncertainty, one thing is unmistakable: This shipwreck – as well as countless others before – is the direct consequence of political decisions taken to prevent people from arriving in Europe. This shipwreck results from the impunity of illegal activities exercised by states at borders and the legalization of practices that aim to normalize the deprivation of rights of people on the move. Activists and organizations have denounced systematic push- and pullbacks, delays and omission of rescues, criminalization of civil search and rescue operations, and cooperation with unsafe countries to externalize European borders and to carry out refoulements. European migration and externalization policies cause physical and psychological violence, imprisonment, and death. Stop diverting your responsibility – Stop killing people on the move! […]

With the unforgivable shipwreck off Greece, we see that the Mediterranean Sea is not only a graveyard, it is a crime scene. A scene of crimes against humanity, with millions of privileged tourists continuing to cruise on it freely every year. On this account, we demand an immediate end to (systemic) border violence. […].

The full text of the open letter can be found here.

Article published in Echoes#7 – Moving on