Montag, 12. Juni 2017

G7 to refugees: please drown out of sight

30 May 2017. A World to Win News Service. The meeting in Taormina, Sicily, of the gang of seven of the world's most dangerous imperialist powers, had one immediate effect that helps reveal what the G7 is about. 

The site, a seaside resort, was chosen not just for its luxury but also its geographical location, difficult to access even in ordinary times. The main discussion was on whether to continue the charade of the Paris Climate Agreement, providing the illusion that the imperialist system will prevent climate disaster even though it can't take the radical steps necessary to actually do so, in contrast to Trump's naked "my country first" planet-busting policies. The other major topic was immigration, but here, too, the point was not how to resolve an emergency in the interests of humanity, but how to keep out desperate humans fleeing the wars and other horrendous conditions the G7 countries have played a major role in creating. As if to illustrate these terms of discussion, citing the security of the two-day G7 meeting, the Italian authorities decreed that for a week, ships carrying people saved from drowning in the Mediterranean would not be allowed to land in Sicilian ports.

On the eve of the summit, several thousand people were pulled out of the waters between Sicily and Libya. Since the EU abandoned its joint rescue operations, the NGO ship the Aquarius is one of the biggest now carrying out rescue operations, along with other volunteer organizations, commercial vessels and the Italian coastguard. It was not allowed to bring its rescued passengers to Sicily but instead had to take them to Salerno, many hours away. As the ship's owners, SOS Mediterrannée, pointed out, the intention was to keep these refugees from the attention of the world media gathered in Sicily, and avoid the embarrassment of putting actual human faces on a topic of cynical discussion. But this knowingly put into danger often dehydrated, perilously cold, injured and otherwise vulnerable people rescued at sea but not allowed to land. 

The Doctors Without Borders (MSF) ship the Prudence, equipped to carry 600 passengers, had 1,449 rescued people aboard when it was rerouted to Naples, perhaps a dozen hours further away than the nearest Sicilian port. An MSF spokesman said that its staff could no longer guarantee the safety of the people they had taken responsibility for. The situation was especially acute on board smaller rescue boats, which have no facilities to provide more than immediate emergency care, or even feed and shelter people during a prolonged voyage. Even worse, the several extra days that ships spend travelling up the Italian coast and back are days when they can't save people.

What does it mean to talk about human rights, an SOS Mediterranné spokesman asked, or, to pretend to do so, if Europe and the G7 have not only renounced their responsibility to save lives, but are now experimenting with potentially life-threatening restrictions on private rescue operations, denying, by implication, that all human beings have an equal right for their lives to be saved. And once the precedent is officially set that state political interests take precedence over certain human lives, the potential danger is far worse. 

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