Migration & Integration PRESS

Rescuing Refugees at Sea

SOS Mediterrane Rescues Refugees at Sea and Unites European Activists

Photo: Alex&Jacob/ Das Progressive Zentrum, 2017.

With the simple, but great and effective idea of rescuing refugees at sea, SOS Mediterrane manages to save the lives of those seeking to enter the European Union.

SOS Mediteranne is an award-winning international initiative that does rescue missions and saves refugees on the sea. The organization, which has helped nearly 15,000 people, works on people’s donations, and provides migrants with security and psychological support. Orange Magazine has spoken with Samar Mawazini, the initiative’s board member, who helps refugees to integrate into French society. Having worked in NGOs located in the Middle East and North Africa, she decided to volunteer for the organization.

“It deals with an issue we cannot close our eyes on,” she says. “It determines the face of Europe in front of the world.”

What is the core idea behind SOS Mediterranee?

It started in 2015 as a European civil society initiative originating between Berlin and Marseille. Activists with backgrounds in humanitarian work, finances, communications and more put their efforts together and formed the core team. We wanted to help the migrants at sea, but we did not know how; and little by little, we focused on the idea of having a special rescue boat. We learned that each day, such a boat can cost around 11,000 Euros, so we needed to finance it somehow.

The team decided to run a crowdfunding platform to finance the project while explaining the refugee issue to Europeans. In less than 45 days, we collected more than 240,000 Euros. This means that the European society is welcoming refugees and wants to do something to help. After one year at sea, we rescued approximately 14,000 people; we also collected more than 1 million Euros in France, and around 800,000 Euros in Germany. The project became a European network initiative, which consisted of three national associations in Germany, France, and Italy; and we aim to involve more activists [in the future].

We always feel strong public support and help; however, the national states and the EU refuse to help with rescue operations at sea. We advocate for the migrants when they are rescued because they get scared upon seeing the military “welcoming” them on the mainland. Also, the military themselves do not have enough space to rescue refugees; their ships need around 100 men to function, leaving only 30 seats for migrants. Sometimes, we rescue around 150 refugees from boats, which only have a full seating capacity for 40 persons.

What is your connection to the #DialogueOnEurope project?

We joined the project to talk about migration, more specifically human rights violations because we want to emphasize the lack of responsibility from the EU and transit countries.

What is the organization working on now?

To continue the initiative, we need to be in a constant contact with the public to raise awareness about the issue faced by migrants. We do awareness projects in schools and universities as well as organize many music and cultural events and debates to speak about the reality that refugees face when they are at sea. We also explain who the refugees are, where they come from and why locals should not fear their arrival.  People tend to fear something they do not know, so we try to change this situation. We remain in contact with those who support us.

(by Anna Romandash and Demetrios Pogkas)

This story was published by Orange Magazine, which has been created by the European Youth Press (EYP) to provide journalistic education and to support young journalists by giving them room to explore media and current affairs. For more information about this edition, please visit: http://www.orangemagazine.eu/.