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Stop attacks on solidarity, support the right to self-defence!

Carola Rackete
Environmental and Sea Rescue Activist

Following a sea rescue mission in June 2019, two investigations were launched against me, the ship’s captain at that time, and Sea-Watch e.V. in Italy. I had steered the Sea-Watch 3 without authorisation into the port of Lampedusa, with a crew of 22 and 40 rescued survivors on board. The neo-fascist Italian Minister of Interior, Matteo Salvini, had just introduced a new security law, criminalising and thus preventing rescue ships from entering Italian ports. For two weeks, we were abandoned off Lampedusa, not allowed to enter territorial waters. During this time the individual suffering and the medical risk for the survivors on board was cruelly prolonged. After entering the port of Lampedusa, I was briefly arrested and the investigations into the incident were opened. It took over two years until the investigations were finally closed by the court in Agrigento in December 2021. No charges were brought forward against me or Sea-Watch. I had not done anything unlawful. In fact, as the closing remarks of the judge lay out I had upheld the laws of the sea. The El Hiblu 3 have also not done anything unlawful. In fact, they have upheld the right to defend themselves against a cruel and illegal forced return to Libya, a place courts have declared countless times as unsafe. They have upheld the right to life, not only for themselves, but for over one hundred persons who had tried to escape from Libya. The investigations into my actions and the actions of the El Hiblu 3 demonstrate the ruthless attacks on solidarity and the freedom of movement. European authorities are criminalising people on the move and those who stand in solidarity with them whilst committing systematic human rights violations, such as the facilitation of violent pushbacks, delay and prevention of arrivals and respective asylum applications, and letting people drown, freeze to death, or disappear. While my story travelled around the world, the unjust treatment of the El Hiblu 3 received little international attention. Unfortunately, it is very common that cases of white sea rescue activists receive much more recognition than cases against people on the move who are criminalised as smugglers or, in this case, as terrorists. Often enough, people are prosecuted and convicted to horrendous prison sentences without the public knowing, or caring. I am part of the El Hiblu 3 Freedom Commission and stand in solidarity with the three accused. They have told their powerful story many times and it is time that they are heard. If we want to overcome structural racism, we should start by listening to the individuals who the European Union would rather see drown than to allow them a safe arrival on its shores. Free the El Hiblu 3 and tear down Fortress Europe!