The Mediterranean Sea has been the common home of ancient civilizations for which cultural exchange has meant progress and prosperity. Today, it has become a mass grave for thousands of young people who meet their deaths because of the absence of legal and safe channels of entry.
The cities—places where men and women of very different origins live together, and where migrants and asylum seekers find refuge—are shocked by the European states’ attitudes toward the rights of people trying to cross the Mediterranean.
We believe the goal of escaping violence, lack of opportunity, or lack of democratic freedoms is a legitimate one, and we believe the solution is peace and democracy—while, at the same time, we believe migration should be managed in an orderly manner, under the coordination of the various government institutions.
We also believe that the men and women who have newly arrived should have the same rights and the same obligations as any other citizen.
The closing off of the Italian and Maltese ports to rescue ships, and the recent blocking, on bureaucratic grounds, of the ships belonging to Open Arms, Aita Mari and Sea-Watch 3 in Spanish and Italian ports, as well as the closure of French ports, are all practical examples of how Europe itself is now facing its own shipwreck.
We believe that Europe is shipwrecked when it violates the law of the sea, when it reduces the means available to its own coast guards, when it charges those who are rescuing human beings—doing what the states should be doing—with human trafficking, and when it tries to dismantle the solidarity mechanisms in our cities.
Europe is shipwrecked when European governments, hiding behind their flags and pretenses of practical solutions, refuse to help and offer solidarity when addressing the issue of migration flows due to regional conflicts.
The European project is shipwrecked when the states sell weapons and fuel conflict to the south and east of the Mediterranean, without assuming any responsibility; when they choose to build walls to create humanitarian “dark zones” from which no information is allowed out; when borders are being closed by means of buying off third-country governments and paying foreign armies so they would do the dirty work.
Europe is shipwrecked when it makes no distinction between the victims of conflict and their killers, as the European extreme right is doing.
We have to save Europe from itself. We refuse to believe that the European response in the face of this horror is nothing more than the negation of human rights and mere passivity towards the fundamental Right to Life.
Saving lives is not negotiable, and stopping rescue ships from leaving the ports, or refusing them entry, is a crime.
Forcing people to live in ever-growing inequality on both sides of the sea is a short-term solution that has no future, especially when the most prominent migration flows are now following other routes, not the maritime ones.
The cities represented here would like to recognize the actions and courage of civil society, represented by the ships belonging to Open Arms, Sea-Watch, Mediterranea, Aita Mari and SeaEye, the Santa Pola fishing boat, the mayor of Riace, the Italian Coast Guard and the Spanish Salvamento Maritimo, as well as all the humanitarian organizations operating at the borders.
We demand that the Italian and Spanish governments and the European Commission abandon their strategy aimed at blocking their activities and criminalizing them.
We have gathered in Rome today [Saturday] to establish an alliance of European cities that are providing support to humanitarian organizations and to European rescue ships in the Mediterranean.
At the same time, European cities shall continue to work together, to fight against the regression of the founding principles of the EU and to bring the European project afloat once more.
It is an alliance both on land and at sea, for a Mediterranean that has a future.
Ada Colau is the mayor of Barcelona. The text of this manifesto was also signed by the mayors of Madrid, Zaragoza, Valencia, Naples, Palermo, Syracuse, Milan, Latina and Bologna.
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