18 March – 30 June 2019
Over the past three and a half months, the period of time covered by this new Alarm Phone regional analysis of developments in the central Mediterranean, the Alarm Phone was alerted to 24 distress situations in that region, involving over 1,700 people. Nine of these boats were returned, or presumably returned, to Libya. Seven were rescued to Malta and four to Italy. One boat was intercepted by the Tunisian coastguards. The fate of three boats remains unknown. Until 30 June 2019, according to UNHCR statistics, about 3,800 people have arrived in Europe via the central Mediterranean route. About 350 people have died in the central Mediterranean – or, rather, these fatalities have been officially recorded as the real figure will be substantially higher. For example, on April 1, the Alarm Phone was alerted to a boat carrying approximately 50 people and although Sea-Eye’s rescue vessel Alan Kurdi searched for the boat, the people were never found. On April 10, people in distress told us that eight people had gone overboard – we don’t know what happened to them. On May 10, when a boat coming from Libya capsized off the coast of Tunisia, it was estimated that about 70 people had died, but there could have been more fatalities. The 16 survivors were rescued by Tunisian fishermen and brought to Tunisia.
This Alarm Phone regional analysis focuses on four main topics. It first highlights ongoing rescue missions by NGOs at sea, despite attempts of Italian and European authorities to undermining them by politically delegitimising and criminalising their efforts. It then turns to the interception and refoulement industry off the coast of Libya and Tunisia, where the return of escaping migrant travellers is often carried out by the so-called Libyan coastguards or merchant vessels and orchestrated by European forces, increasingly so from the air. Our analysis then moves to emergent coalitions of solidarity: In Naples, humanitarian rescuers, civil society organisations, representatives of municipalities, and activist groups met on June 20-21 under the slogan “From the Sea to the City”. The final section highlights the struggles of migrant travellers themselves, who are not passive victims but the central protagonists of their migration projects who enact their freedom of movement when they try to cross the dangerous Mediterranean Sea.