Medel statement of solidarity with "Proactiva Open Arms"

MEDELMigration is part of our history and part of the history of our nations and civilization.

As MEDEL recalled in the Palma Declaration for Refugees and Migrants of 11 March 2017[1], migration is nowadays the story of a huge humanitarian tragedy taking place in front of our eyes, in our seas, where thousands of migrants, escaping from war and starvation, lose their lives.

The same tragedy continues in Libyan detention centres, where migrants are systematically denied their fundamental right to asylum and the possibility to reach the countries where this right can be assessed and eventually granted. In addition to this, they are also victims of inhuman and degrading treatment, as recently confirmed by the UN secretary general on the basis of the inquiry of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya[2].

In view of the migration flows that we are experiencing nowadays no one can feel as a passive witness. Ginetta Sagan once wrote “silence in the face of injustice is complicity with the oppressor”.

What is going on right now in the Mediterranean puts seriously into question the democratic identity of Europe, as well as the universality and indivisibility of the fundamental rights that are part of its moral and spiritual heritage, for the enjoyment of which the European Union took over “responsibilities and duties” towards the whole human community and future generations. Such responsibilities and duties impose Europe the obligation to put an end to tragedies at sea, to take migrants to a safe place with the absolute prohibition, as stated by several international treaties and our European Courts[3], of a refoulement to places where they run the risk of suffering torture and/or inhuman or degrading treatments.

To rescue migrants at sea and taking them to a safe place represents not only a legal obligation but also a moral duty.

During these years, the activity of NGOs has counteracted the passivity of States and Europe, ensuring the only way to guarantee the lives of thousands of migrants at risk in the Mediterranean by taking them to safe place, and by that responding to the “ethical imperative” that imposes putting in the first place the life and physical integrity of refugees in severe situations of vulnerability.

Thanks to the rescue operations of “Proactiva Open Arms”, 59.000 migrants were saved from drowning in the Mediterranean, that way preventing the already-shameful-number of deaths recorded this year to increase. As a recognition to the value of this humanitarian work, which represents the practical translation of a strong commitment for the defence of fundamental rights in the name of solidarity and human dignity that are part of our civilization and culture, MEDEL has decided to nominate “Proactiva Open Arms” for the 2018 Václav Havel Human Rights Prize of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

While confirming our full respect for the decisions issued by the judicial authorities about the rescue operations that “Proactiva Open Arms” performed on 15 March 2018, we deem appropriate to recall that the assessment of the legality of a rescue mission at sea cannot disregard the primacy of ensuring, in any circumstance, the safety of migrants and the humanitarian goals underlying all rescue operations.

We here recall the statement of MEDEL of October 7th, 2013[4], which is still unfortunately valid: in the preamble of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, the European Nations have clearly stated that “the Union is founded on the indivisible, universal values of human dignity, freedom, equality and solidarity” and that “enjoyment of these rights entails responsibilities and duties with regard to other persons, to the human community and to future generations”.

It is time for the European Union to prove that those are not meaningless words.

March 31st, 2018


[1] Available here:

[2] See also, Hirsi Jamaa and others v. Italy [GC], no. 27765/09, paragraphs 33 to 42, as well as paragraphs 123 to 138 where the European Court of Human Rights enumerated and analysed the most relevant international material concerning the situation of migrants in Libya.

[3] See, inter alia, ECtHR, Saadi v. Italy [GC], no. 37201, M.S.S. v. Belgium and Greece [GC], no, 30696/09, Tarakhel v. Switzerland [GC], no. 29217/12 y Paposhvili v. Belgium [GC], no. 41738/10.


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