Opinion ‘It’s an Act of Murder’: How Europe Outsources Suffering as Migrants Drown

New York Times Opinion article and short film by Charles Heller, Lorenzo Pezzani, Itamar Mann, Violeta Moreno-Lax and Eyal Weizman:

This short film, produced by The Times’s Opinion Video team and the research groups Forensic Architecture and Forensic Oceanography, reconstructs a tragedy at sea that left at least 20 migrants dead. Combining footage from more than 10 cameras, 3-D modeling and interviews with rescuers and survivors, the documentary shows Europe’s role in the migrant crisis at sea.”

“On Nov. 6, 2017, at least 20 people trying to reach Europe from Libya drowned in the Mediterranean, foundering next to a sinking raft.  Not far from the raft was a ship belonging to Sea-Watch, a German humanitarian organization. That ship had enough space on it for everyone who had been aboard the raft. It could have brought them all to the safety of Europe, where they might have had a chance at being granted asylum.

Instead, 20 people drowned and 47 more were captured by the Libyan Coast Guard, which brought the migrants back to Libya, where they suffered abuse — including rape and torture.

This confrontation at sea was not a simplistic case of Europe versus Africa, with human rights and rescue on one side and chaos and danger on the other. Rather it’s a case of Europe versus Europe: of volunteers struggling to save lives being undercut by European Union policies that outsource border control responsibilities to the Libyan Coast Guard — with the aim of stemming arrivals on European shores.

While funding, equipping and directing the Libyan Coast Guard, European governments have stymied the activities of nongovernmental organizations like Sea-Watch, criminalizing them or impounding their ships, or turning away from ports ships carrying survivors.

More than 14,000 people have died or gone missing while trying to cross the central Mediterranean since 2014. But unlike most of those deaths and drownings, the incident on Nov. 6, 2017, was extensively documented.

Sea-Watch’s ship and rescue rafts were outfitted with nine cameras, documenting the entire scene in video and audio. The Libyans, too, filmed parts of the incident on their mobile phones.

The research groups Forensic Architecture and Forensic Oceanography of Goldsmiths, University of London, of which three of us — Mr. Heller, Mr. Pezzani and Mr. Weizman — are a part, combined these video sources with radio recordings, vessel tracking data, witness testimonies and newly obtained official sources to produce a minute-by-minute reconstruction of the facts. Opinion Video at The New York Times built on this work to create the above short documentary, gathering further testimonials by some of the survivors and rescuers who were there.

This investigation makes a few things clear: European governments are avoiding their legal and moral responsibilities to protect the human rights of people fleeing violence and economic desperation. More worrying, the Libyan Coast Guard partners that Europe is collaborating with are ready to blatantly violate those rights if it allows them to prevent migrants from crossing the sea….”

Full article and film here.

 

 

 

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