WMN: Whose responsibility is to deal with the problem of the migration in the Mediterranean?
C. Catrambone: The main responsibility for the problem lies in the global community. The global community at large should react because we believe that this is not solely Europe’s problem, but a global one.
The world needs to get behind a unified strategy to conduct search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean, but also tackle the larger roots of the problem, such as the stabilization of Libya and other African and Middle Eastern countries from which these people are fleeing we have asylum seekers and economic migrants from different countries. This is what you might call a mixed migration. People from different countries and different backgrounds are all coming to Libya to embark on a boat to Europe.
MOAS believes that no one has the right to say that these migrants cannot pursue happiness and a promise of a better life. That is the ultimate argument here, and that is why we are trying to humanize people that are suffering and dying at sea.
We rely very much on our governments to solve our problems. MOAS is trying to show who these people are. We have world media on board showing these rescues that are happening to the people. I think that because there has been a lack of engagement by civil society to be a witness to what is happening, the public just doesn’t know.
If the public is unaware of the problem, and it isn’t shown the imagery and the videos of what is happening, they just view them as some people on a boat. We have to humanize these people on the boats by sharing their stories.
We have had unaccompanied minors, namely a 13-year-old boy from Eritrea who had left his home because of the persecution. The boy struck me as a very smart and ambitious person, already leading a life of an adult, a life miles away from that of an average 13-year-old in the USA.
WMN: What is your position on the EU’s 10-point action plan. Is it enough?
C. Catrambone: I think that any plan of action by the EU is a good action and a step in the right direction. The action plan is an indicator that they are taking the matter seriously.
The problem with any of the current plans is that they are not prioritizing search and rescue assets. The FRONTEX mandate is a border-protection mandate, and not a search and rescue one. The most important thing lacking at the moment is vessels absolutely dedicated to conducting search and rescue.
WMN: Recently we saw 5,000 migrants being saved over one weekend, the biggest wave of migrants in 2015. Can we expect more of these “big waves”? Is there any way of predicting another inflow of migrants?
C. Catrambone: The smugglers use the tactic of overwhelming the system.
That is to say overwhelming the coast guards, the rescue coordination centers and every single commercial and military vessel in the area, creating an ‘’all hands on deck’’ situation, by sending out massive waves of people on boats. And this tactic of sending many boats at one time has proven successful thus far. This last incident involved over 20 boats that were rescued.
This will continue and it will get bigger. There is more people that will come, and I think that we have seen nothing yet. We are not even at the heart of the season, yet.
WMN: EU has recently set up a EUNAVFOR MED to fight organized smuggling rings. One of the approved actions is seizing and destroying all vessels linked to smuggling operations. Do you agree with with such approach?
C. Catrambone: I believe it is going to be very difficult for them to identify boats on the shores of Libya which are used for people smuggling, seeing that many of these boats are fishing vessels.
Navies have been known to destroy boats once the migrants were rescued from them. But a military operation to target fishing boats that are on the shore of Libya is a mistake because there is no way to determine which boats are being used for smuggling.