Interview to Mar Sabé
(Proactiva Open Arms Communication Area)
- With what institutional support (logistic, economic…) does Open Arms count? Which administrations help you?
Institutional aid comprises 10% of the total we receive, the rest comes from civil society. Within this 10% we have financial aid from nearby administrations such as municipalities and councils in the Catalan area.
Institutional relations vary: sometimes they help us, others they put obstacles in our way…
- Which States offer protection in the seas in which you operate? Which ports can we consider as «safe» ones?
International maritime law explains that any person who is shipwrecked must be rescued and taken to the nearest safe harbor. The most recent controversial example is the ship ‘Nuestra Madre de Loreto’. Spain said that the people rescued by it should go to Libya since it was a «safe harbor»: when any person whith a minumum of common sense knows that this is flatly false. Libya is a country without a state in which human rights are systematically violated. People are fleeing precisely from Libya, so taking them back is not an option. In the end, an agreement was reached for them to disembark in Malta. For us, the closest safe harbor is one that respects human rights and is usually the Europeans: Spain, Malta, Italy …
- What opinion do you have about the turn of Pedro Sánchez’s Executive? (When the case of the Aquarius happened, the nearest port was Libya and, nevertheless, they did not disembark the migrants there because it was considered as «dangerous» by the spanish Government.) Why now they consider Libya a good place to disembark?
Obviously the situation in Libya has not improved, it has even worsened in recent months. We also wonder about this in the organization. Maybe they were looking for a «photo», for citizen’s approval…I think that the president should explain why he has taken completely different decisions.
- How can the rest of the European Union help?
In doing efficient policies that guarantee human rights… A few days ago all the countries were celebrating The Universal Declaration of Human Rights 70th anniversary. We can not send people back to to the hell that they have been running away from. Migration is a right also included in the UDHR. Immigration has always existed. The percentage of the migrant population has always oscillated around 3%. It has not changed over the years, it is normal percentage.
- What will suppose that the Aquarius stops operating? Are you going to see your rescue capacity reduced?
The Aquarius is another example of the campaign to discredit the NGOs and to undermine them by favoring human trafficking. The reduction of ships is a big problem: we are talking about a large maritime mass in which there will be less «eyes». They will rescue fewer people and there will be fewer witnesses. No people there means that we won’t know what is happening. The official data are not even real because there are areas that are uncovered and we can not know exactly the number of people dead, disapperad or in need.
- What operating ships do you have right now?
Now we have the Open Arms, with which we have been rescuing for a year, and the Astral, a converted luxury sailboat donated by an Italian entrepreneur, with whom we started to act in 2016.
- Which mechanisms can be started so as to raise international awareness of the migratory drama and your work?
The most important thing would be to set the media focus in the mediterranean issue. There are many people who are forced to leave in precarious conditions. They are not looking for a better life: they are looking for a life. What they have is could not be considered as that in a country like Libya. We have to explain what happens near spanish doors…In the same place where we bathe every summer… It is important to focus, explain and ask people for responsibilities. I do not want our children to ask us in 20 years why we did not do something to improve this situation.
- You have started to «help in origin» in Ghana ...
We have started to act in the origin because we have realized that missinformation is the biggest problem. Someone makes them believe that the trip to Europe will be normal and calmed: 45-minute journey. «You are going to pay a lot of money but it will be worth it because in Europe you will have many opportunities.» The trip is also very dangerous before arriving to the sea owing to the terrible situations in many african countries.
They must know that migrating is a right but it is true that doing it in irregular conditions is very dangerous. We want them to look for more options. We have a pilot project in Ghana, the idea is to eventually seek synergies with local organizations to raise awareness about this, before they undertake such a journey.
- What support do you need to extend this mission to more countries?
We need, above all, economic support. Any type of knowledge or work that people can provide is necessary.
- What options do migrants have once they arrive in Spain?
For this subject you should consult with CEAR or the ‘Cruz Roja’, but I think most do not stay in Spain, in part, because often it is not their intention either. It is simply a gateway for them; their intention is to go to another european country. Surely many of the Aquarius people are not currently in Spain.