Saving lives at sea is not a crime
But for the past few years, European states have treated those brave enough to save refugees from drowning in the Mediterranean as if they were breaking the law.
Welcome to The Civil Fleet, a podcast by civilfleet.com that focuses on the NGO refugee rescuers in the central Mediterranean and beyond.
Episode 29: ‘I will keep knocking on Fortress Europe's walls’
IN today's episode, we speak with Yambio David Oliver, founder of the campaign group Refugees in Libya.
He tells us why he had to flee his home in South Sudan, about working in a gold mine in Chad and why he was forced to make the deadly desert crossing into Libya.
We hear about his time in the North African country, where he was treated like a slave, forced to join a militia, and made multiple attempts to escape across the Mediterranean.
He tells us about the Libyan Coastguards, who pushed him back to Libya from Maltese waters, about the police raids on refugees in Tripoli, and how the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) failed to protect them.
He tells us how he brought international attention to the plight of refugees in Libya, how his activism made him a target for the militias, and how he finally managed to escape the country.
For more on Refugees In Libya, see their blog here: refugeesinlibya.org, and The Civil Fleet's coverage here: bit.ly/3dwbsD7
Follow Refugees in Libya on Twitter: @RefugeesinLibya
You can read The Civil Fleet's previous interviews with Yambio here: bit.ly/3phm633 and here: bit.ly/3PmmcRy
Here's a response from the UNHCR on the situation outside its community day care centre in Tripoli in January: bit.ly/3bPFCAP
Early on in the interview, Yambio refers to himself as an IDP, an internally displaced person. You can read more about IPD on the UNHCR's website here: bit.ly/3PoGARY
If you need to see a map of Central and North Africa, and of the countries Yambio speaks about, see here: bit.ly/3dtYhT8
This 2016 Vox video seems to have a good (though US-centric) explanation of the Sudanese Civil War and South Sudanese Civil War: bit.ly/3BYKv58
Read this Al Jazeera article on child soldiers in South Sudan: bit.ly/3Au4qI9
Here's a couple of interesting articles on the gold mines in Chad: bit.ly/3piqbE5 and bit.ly/3C4jP2H
For more on the Italy-Libya Memorandum of Understanding, see episode 19 of The Civil Fleet podcast with Italian journalist Lorenzo D'Agostino.
For more on Mohammed Al-Khoja and Bija, see this story by The Africa Report bit.ly/3C5BZBf, and this Guardian story: bit.ly/3pimX3v
For more on Alarm Phone, see episodes 3 and 5.
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Episode 28: Refugee life, pushbacks and criminalisation on Lesvos
In this episode, we hear from Alice and Hamid from Borderline Lesvos about their work on the island running a welcome centre for registered refugees.
They tell us how the NGO helps people adjust to life on the island, and helps them with things like bureaucracy, housing and the Greek language.
We hear about Moria camp 2, and how the kids languishing inside there are struggling with their mental health.
They also speak about the dwindling numbers of refugees on the island, the illegal practice of refugee pushbacks, and how the authorities may in fact be employing the mafia to do this.
And they also discuss how the state is criminalising refugees on some truly ridiculous grounds. In fact, Hamid, a refugee himself, tells us how he was imprisoned for two years for something he didn't do.
For more on Borderline Lesvos, see borderlinelesvos.org
And for their sister NGO, Borderline Europe, see: borderline-europe.de/?l=en
In this episode Ben mistakes Borderline Europe with Border Violence Monitoring Network, you can find out more about BVMN in episode 8.
For The Civil Fleet's coverage of Greece, see here: bit.ly/3IpMOzm
For Lesvos/Lesbos, see: bit.ly/3NU3D6r
For Moria 2 refugee camp, see: bit.ly/3uzfCQk
Check out episode 25 to hear from Hasan, the Syrian refugee Ben mentions in this podcast
For more on the Sappho Square protest mentioned by Hamid, read this: bit.ly/3AJDLHP
Want to know more about the Samos 2 and other criminalisations of refugees in Greece? Then see episode 26, in which we hear from N and Hasan's lawyers Alexandros Georgoulis and Dimitris Choulis
For more on the woman who tried to kill herself with fire who the authorities charged with arson, read this Info Migrants story here: bit.ly/3yUmpGH
and Are Your Syrious's story on the postponement of her trial here: bit.ly/3c5Nz4g
For more on Sean Binder's case, see episode 16 for our interview with him and fellow activist Madi Williamson
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Episode 27: "They capsized into the water. Luckily most people were able to swim"
One night in May this year, 110 people were crammed onto a wooden boat somewhere along Libya's Mediterranean coastline.
The boat was much too small for them all, and none of them had been given a life jacket. But they, much like the tens of thousands of others who have attempted to reach safety in Europe, must have been desperate to escape that war-torn country.
The people eventually made it into Malta's SAR zone, where the island nation was legally responsible for coordinating their rescue. But of course, Malta did no such thing.
Two activist-run rescue ships did come to their aid on May 24th. And while they were waiting on instructions from the authorities that night, the wind and waves began picking up.
The sea got so rough that the refugees' boat capsized, fling 110 people into the water in the pitch black of night.
In today's episode, Leon, an activist who was aboard the Nadir that night, is going to tell us all about the rescue operation, ResQship, and about the crew's run-ins with the EU-supported Libyan Coastguards too.
For more on ResQship, visit their website here: resqship.org
A follow them on Twitter here: @resqship_int
Follow The Civil Fleet's coverage of the Nadir here: bit.ly/39SnJjy
For more on the Nadir's May 24 rescue mission, see here: bit.ly/3ylXlIA
The Nadir, at the time this episode was published, is currently carrying 19 people and is in desperate need of a port. Read The Civil Fleet's latest story on this here: bit.ly/3zYdJQC
Ben mentions the Sea-Watch 3, Sea-Eye 4 and the Ocean Viking near the beginning of the interview. If you want to know more about them, see episodes 22, 10, 7, and 1.
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Episode 26: The Samos 2 and the criminalisation of refugees in Greece
In today's episode, we speak with lawyers Alexandros Georgoulis and Dimitris Choulis about the controversial legal case they worked on known as the Samos 2.
The Samos 2 are two Afghan refugees who tried to reach Greece by boat with 22 others in November 2020. Their boat got into trouble as it neared the island of Samos and capsized.
The Greek coastguards were aware of the incident, but did not launch a rescue.
The next day, one of the refugees, known only as N, found the body of his six-year-old son on the rocks. The cops arrested him and charged him with "endangering the life of his child." He faced 10 years in prison.
Hasan, another one of the refugees on the boat that night, was also arrested and charged with human trafficking because the authorities said he drove the boat. He faced 230 years behind bars.
Then in May 2022, both N and Hasan were freed and can now try to rebuild their lives in Greece.
Alexandros and Dimitris, who represented the Samos 2, are going to tell us about the injustice caused by the Samos 2 case, and the absurd EU directive that is causing refugees to be charged with human trafficking.
You can follow Alexandros Georgoulis on Twitter on: @GeorgoulisLAW
Dimitris Choulis is on Twitter on: @DimitrisChoulis
For more on the Samos 2, check out the Free the Samos 2 website here: freethesamostwo.com
And on The Civil Fleet here: bit.ly/3twRMnx
For more on the Amir Zahiri and Akif Rasuli case, which Alexandros talks about, see here: bit.ly/39oAt1g
Read more about Hanad Abdi Mohammad's case here: bit.ly/3QhtWWB, here: nyti.ms/3mDQQtJ and here (if you read French or can translate the page): bit.ly/3mXWNSJ.
The Civil Fleet's stories on Greece can be found here: bit.ly/3QgPnHu.
Iason Apostolopoulos, mentioned right at the beginning of the interview, is a Greek rescue worker. We interviewed him on episode 18.
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Episode 25: ‘I can't feel safe while the UK government plans to send refugees to Rwanda’
In today's episode, we speak with Syrian refugee Hasan about why he was forced to flee Syria and how he was treated by the authorities while attempting to reach Europe. Hasan, which is not his real name, is now safe and living in London. He was also detained here in Britain after reaching the country and was held in one of the notorious former British army barracks while his asylum claim was being processed.
He's going to tell us about that, too, and why it is an awful way to treat asylum seekers. We'll also hear his thoughts on British Home Secretary Priti Patel's new policy to ship refugees off to Rwanda.
For more on the Greek-Turkey border, see here: bit.ly/3NMCuTk
Read about the UK government's aborted plans to push migrants back to France: bit.ly/3PUlwnW
19 people died in Home Office asylum-seeker accommodation in 2021: bit.ly/38TpI6Z
Check out the following stories by journalist Bethany Rielly's on:
how campaigners forced the British government to delay deportations to Rwanda: bit.ly/3t73xAU
and, how asylum-seeker waiting times has tripled under Patel: bit.ly/3Q3PwOu
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Episode 24: Twenty years behind bars for saving lives
In today's episode, we speak with Kathrin Schmidt, a rescue worker who saved the lives of 14,000 refugees in the Mediterranean Sea aboard the Iuventa five years ago. This Saturday, May 21, she and three others from the ship are due to appear in an Italian court on charges of facilitating illegal entry into the country. They could all face 20 years behind bars.
The charges are bogus, of course, and Kathrin is going to tell us why. She will also explain how the Italian secret services wiretapped the Iuventa and surveilled journalists and lawyers speaking with their clients.
She will also explain what this case means for the future of activist-led sea rescues, and for the people on the move at Europe's edges.
For more on the Iuventa, visit the website here: iuventa-crew.org
If you can, you can set up a donation to them here: iuventa-crew.org/donate
Follow the Iuventa Crew on Twitter: @IuventaCrew
You can also read this 2020 The Civil Fleet interview with Iuvena crew members Dariush Beigui and Hendrik Simon on their arrest here: bit.ly/38CdhMB
And/or listen to episode 2, which features Sascha, the Iuventa's former head of operations
You can read more of The Civil Fleet's Iuventa stories here: bit.ly/38EDH0e
Read more about the EU-Turkey deal here: bit.ly/3wuQDPm
MRCC stands for Marine Rescue Coordination centre.
An SAR Zone stands for Search-and-rescue zone.
You can find a glossary of similar terms that often pop up on the podcast often here: bit.ly/3kGhkt0
Frontex is the European Border and Coastguard Agency. It has been accused of aiding the Greece authorities to illegally push people back across its borders and of assisting the Libyan Coastguard to intercept refugees escaping the country. See episode 23 for more.
The Civil Fleet exposed how the EU's supposed training of the Libyan Coastguards, and Frontex's relationship with them, only made matters worse for those trying to escape across the Mediterranean. Read that here: bit.ly/3yNtYPH
Carola Rackete is an environmental and human rights activist from German. In June 2019, while captaining the Sea-Watch 3 and carrying 40 rescued refugees for 17-days, she sailed into port against the commands of the Italian authorities. She was placed under house arrest. But, in January 2020, Italy's highest court said she should never have been arrested nor charged with anything. You can read about that here: bit.ly/3sMCY3N
Sean Binder is another activist who has been arrested, detained and dragged through the courts for having saved hundreds of refugees lives. He appears in episode 16 of The Civil Fleet Podcast, along with Madi Williamson, a qualified nurse who has faced similar troubles for her humanitarian work.
The Samos 2 are two refugees, known as N and Hasan, who have been put on trial in Greece. Hasan was charged with human trafficking because he allegedly drove the boat they were on. N lost his son when their boat crashed as they approached the shore. He became the first refugee ever to be charged with "endangering the life of his child." On Wednesday, May 18, 2022, N was found innocent and Hasan was freed on a suspended sentence. You can read more about them here: freethesamostwo.com
In the UK, the Appeals Court overturned the sentences of four people who were sent to prison for having driven dinghies across Channel. You can read about that here: bit.ly/3Lv2p0k
The Civil Fleet revealed in March 2021 that the UK government was spending up to £1 billion ($1.2bn / €1.1bn) on drones to fly over the Channel, the sole purpose of which appeared to be to help the state prosecute people seen driving the boats. Read about that here: bit.ly/3yNs0ik
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