The Boats4People tour will take place from 1st to 19th of July 2012 between Italy and Tunisia in the Mediterranean Sea. Timetable, route and background information are provided by the projects :: Newsletter No. 1 (pdf).
Boats4People aims to observe the situation in the Mediterranean Sea, collect information on the situation of migrants, disseminate it in the media and denounce the role played by the EU. Boats4People also participates in the preparation of legal files on cases of non-assistance by European military or border control boats. Another objective is to build a network of sailors to alert us to violations of migrants' human rights at sea. The cooperation between European and African organizations, activists and researchers is meant as a step towards a strong long-term alliance. By mobilizing people in the Mediterranean, Africa and Europe we strive for a Mediterranean that will become a place of solidarity and cease to be a mass grave for migrants. We advocate freedom of movement for all.
Timetable and stations
The rough timetable is now fixed: Boats4People will start on 1st July in Cecina (Italy). Activities are in preparation for Sicily from July 5th to 7th. After that Boats4People will make several stops in Tunisian harbour cities, before arriving to the final destination of this first civil observation joint action, Lampedusa on 19th July. For more specific information, see 'Route of Boats4People' below.
This Euro-African cooperation project is planned as a kind of caravan with many activities and protests both on sea and land. According to the number and type of boats that we have at our disposal today, space on the boats will be very limited. People are therefore invited to join the activities at the stops along the route and to use alternative transport, like the commercial ferry between Sicily and Tunisia on 7th July and public transport within Tunisia. We will move as a collective group of Boats4People activists, researchers, journalists and parliamentarians. Throughout the coming weeks and months of mobilisation and preparations we want to become a big transnational crowd.
Route of Boats4People
The project will start at the beginning of July at the international annual anti-racist conference organized by ARCI in Cecina. Here Boats4People was born as an idea last year. At least one boat will depart from a port in Tuscany towards the south.
Various protests against detention and monitoring, with boats and on land, will take place in Sicily from 5th to 7th July. After that we will move towards Tunisia. We will make stops in different harbours where activities such as film screenings, exhibitions, discussions and demonstrations will be organized. We plan to arrive in Monastir on July 13th to join the meeting of the International Committee of the World Social Forum. Our final stop will be Lampedusa, symbol of the EU's violent border policy. Here various actions will take place and we will be present at the film festival on migration on July 19th.
The current situation in the Mediterranean
The political climate concerning migrants at sea, at borders, or in detention appears to be static, yet every week there are new cases of deaths and policy changes, rule-bending and creation of legislation. In March in one week alone, nearly 200 migrants tried to cross the Mediterranean either landing exhausted and dehydrated on Lampedusa, or found adrift off the coast of the European Union. This, of course, came with tragedy. In one of these cases alone 5 people lost their lives, and others were found close to death. Our eyes are fixed on the European response to this, but we are rarely surprised when these events are merely commented on.
March 2012 saw both the European Commissioner for Home Affairs shaming Europe's response to the asylum seekers of the 'Arab Spring', and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees condemning Europe's 'schizophrenic' reaction to the topic of migration in general. By the end of March the EU announced the development of a 'Resettlement Programme' for refugees, yet there is still no consensus on a Common European Asylum System.
Greece, a country that the European Court of Human Rights deemed unsuitable for asylum seekers to be returned to, announced in March the creation of 30 new detention centres for migrants, with the help of EU funding. Following this announcement Greece started a massive sweep-and-arrest campaign in the centre of Athens. This operation Pogrom in Athens has so far resulted in 2,000 people being placed in custody, of which 420 were arrested.
We call on all activists, migrants and supporters of migrants' solidarity networks to participate in our action and help transform the Mediterranean from a space of denial of rights to a space of solidarity and Freedom of Movement.
For further information see :: boats4people.org or read the whole :: Newsletter as pdf.