The escalation of repression in Europe continues as Carola Rackete, the captain of the Sea Watch 3 ship rescuing people from drowning in the Mediterranean Sea, was arrested by Italian authorities after docking her ship in the port of Lampedusa. She docked the vessel despite threats from Italian authorities to deny it access to their waters because the physical and psychological health of 40 refugees from Africa on board the ship were at severe risk after a lengthy time at sea.
While Rackete was arrested, the 40 refugees were able to leave the boat – yet now they face the next step of the European refugee system, potential threats of deportation or splitting up into various European countries. Rackete is being held under house arrest and faces three to 10 years imprisonment on charges of resisting a warship. She joins Pia Klemp, the captain of the Iuventa, another vessel that saved over 1000 people from drowning into the Mediterranean. Her ship was also confiscated and she is threatened with up to 20 years in prison.
The arrests of Rackete and Klemp the latest elaboration of the policy of “Fortress Europe” that has already stolen the lives of thousands of people from Africa, the Arab World and Southwest Asia seeking refuge. In the last six years alone, over 18,000 people have lost their lives in the Mediterranean Sea seeking refuge and safety and denied it because of their national origin, race or ethnicity.
It must be noted that many of the people who have lost their lives in the sea have been the victims of European policies many times over: the Fortress Europe policy that defies international law, human rights and basic humanity with border walls, iron fences, closed doors and impenetrable policies, but also the lengthy history and present of European imperialism and colonialism. It is European and U.S. policies of invasion, intervention, colonization, destruction, environmental devastation, exploitation and war that has pushed thousands upon thousands of people to migrate from their homes, often against their desires, to seek their most basic right to safety.
The threats of Matteo Salvini and the Italian far-right are highly visible in propounding the most extreme form of “Fortress Europe” policy that seemingly openly welcomes the drowning of thousands in the sea. However, Italy is not responsible alone. As noted by Klasse Gegen Klasse in their statement, “Europe’s racist migration regime is primarily influenced by the interests of German imperialism…The federal government has offered in a hypocritical gesture to accept the refugees from the Sea Watch 3. But German imperialism is responsible for the fact that time and again so many people are searching for this dangerous route via the Mediterranean. Only a few years ago, the German federal government concluded a pact with Turkey to close the Balkan route – a pact that is still in force today. That’s why the Mediterranean route is used at all: because no other way remains open. No one would volunteer to face this mortal danger.”
Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network stands in solidarity with Carola Rackete, Pia Klemp and all of those struggling to bring an end to the racist framework of “Fortress Europe.” We join the calls for their immediate release, the dropping of all charges and the end to the seizure of rescue boats and the prosecution of those who save refugees’ lives. We join the calls to end the racist and discriminatory policies of deportation and exclusion, denial of benefits, forced camp stays, securitization and labor bans that prevent people from seeking safety and freedom.
Most importantly, we know that all of these things will not be possible without an end to European imperialism and colonization around the world, including the European Union’s support for U.S. wars and interventions and the Israeli occupation and colonization of Palestine. Instead, European states are – as is the case in Germany – escalating existing state structures of repression to target communities of color and oppressed communities, including those who have recently come to Europe, often as refugees, for surveillance and intelligence interest.
The rise of the far right in Europe has involved ongoing anti-Arab and anti-Muslim discourse and attacks; these same parties seek strong relationships with the Israeli state. In the case of Palestine in particular, support for the killing and repression of Palestinians and Arabs in Palestine and the Arab world is combined with repressive mechanisms to suppress organizing in Palestinian and Arab communities in Europe. Therefore, support for Palestine and to change European policy toward Israeli apartheid is intimately connected to the fight against racism and the policies of “Fortress Europe” and securitization inside European states as well.