By Martina Liebsch, Advocacy Director for Caritas Internationalis
I feel ashamed! While I was very worried about the agenda of our Caritas General Assembly, 72 people were clinging on a boat hoping for a better life. While a helicopter pilot turned back to his base, people on the boat in the Mediterranean Sea were starting to have hope. While I was enjoying a nice dinner at home, they were starving on a boat. While a captain on a ship was having a drink with his colleagues on the ship, people on the boat were thirsty. While I was thinking of my son, children did not have a reply from their mother as she died on the boat, from hunger, thirst and exhaustion. While I was enjoying a nice sunset and hours of rest with my husband, they were ending their life without peace and hope. And they have almost no voice.
It has happened before, that people have died in the Mediterranean Sea, while attempting to cross to Italy.
Thousands are reported. But, it happened very close to us, in a stretch of Mediterranean where freedom seems to be a stone’s throw away from the suffering either as migrant or refugee in Libya. This happened in spite of our advanced world, where everything seems to be possible. It has happened in spite of potential rescuers being in touch with the drifting boat.
Libya is bombed by highly developed planes in the name of freedom. But are we not able to rescue people who try to flee from the very same situation? It happened because everyone is worried about his or her own mandate and responsibilities, but not about moral courage. It happened because states are worried about protecting borders and not about protecting lives. It happened because of a system where responsibilities are moved from one state to the other, without clear commitment and policies.
The measures taken to face migrants coming from the Southern Mediterranean countries in crisis have not really been taken in coordination and solidarity. Every country took its own decision, leaving migrants in limbo. It will become a full circle we have seen before, when these migrants start to get noticed because they might have committed some crime in order to survive.
However, many documents in the EU speak about values, such as solidarity and rights. The European Charter on Fundamental Rights of the EU in article 2 says, “Everyone has the right to life”. This right has been trampled down.
But there was a bit of consolation too! This morning a colleague called me asking if we had reacted on this specific situation. And while justifying why I had not been able to react, I realized that something – even very small – should be done!
This is why I love the Caritas network. It is not just one pair of eyes, but many more of them! We will meet at our GA in 10 days and we are worried about statutes, rules, and meetings. Without diminishing the importance of this important event of Caritas, my colleague helped me to put the priorities right. Our network is there to speak out for the voiceless, the right less, the excluded and those who just want a little piece of better life.
Nine out of 72 people on the boat survived 16 days on the sea without rescue in spite of the fact that there were contacts to potential rescuers! Otherwise we would not have even known about it. Is that the humanity we want to live and see?
Let’s not be afraid and get our priorities right!