IUVENTA, INTERNATIONAL WATERS OFF THE COASTS OF LIBYA, MEDITERRANEAN SEA, April and May 2017.
The Mediterranean sea is the deadliest border to Europe. People and their stories, fights and hopes, love and suffering are constantly drowning in its waters, together with the values of solidarity and dignity of a country and of an entire Europe that is now closing its doors (and its ports). In the depth of open water everything disappears in silence.
This is a short photographic journey taken onboard the Mv Iuventa, the ship of the german NGO Jugend Rettet, literally “youth on rescue”, founded by a group of young people that refused to turn away. The ship and its crew, together with a number of other NGOs, have been woking in the Mediterranean sea, to fill the gap of a complete lack of rescue operations within the search and rescue zone in international waters off the coasts of Libya, and has saved more than 14.000 human lives. The Iuventa has been seized in August 2017. A number of crew members are currently accused of aiding illegal immigration and human trafficking. Despite the accusations are not at present supported by evidence, the ship remains seized and the volunteers still face prosecution. At the same time, since then and until now, and especially now, Italy has engaged in strong anti-migration policies and in an expensive repressive programme that aims at the protection of its borders at all costs, and that has been put in practice also through silencing witnesses from the Mediterranean, closing ports to migrants and rescuers, criminalising activists and spreading hatred and terror.
Right now, rescue organisations is in the midst of a repressive machinery, which lead to systematically discrediting and criminalizing individuals and NGOs rescuing human lives at sea, even though rescue at sea is a legal duty. The number of deaths in the Mediterranean is impossible to count. Lifeless bodies are continuously washed up on sea shores, picked up by fishing vessels and spotted from the air, as like as shipwrecked boats whose dead passengers will forever stay unknown. At present, the Libyan Coast Guard continues committing violence, as it’s been documented, and deaths continue when migrants are brought back to Libya, a place of uncontrolled abuse that can under no means be considered safe.
After being gradually put out of action, the ships belonging to several NGOs are still stuck in port, while September has been recorded as the deadliest month in the Mediterranean so far this year. Current policies are now systematically intimidating individuals by criminal prosecution, together with an ad hoc media campaign, to also scare off all who dare to show solidarity with people fleeing and intervene directly in conflicts or putting their political responsibility into action.
However, despite this huge repressive machinery, tens of thousands of people continue challenging a written fate, like there is a bigger force. Numbers are unimaginable, and if on one hand it is impossible to stop migratory flows, the strength, the courage, the pian and the hope of those who flee from a non existence made of violence that push them to challenge the limits of European migratory policies, also the determination and the political commitment of NGOs is not fading away, with individuals that due to their right of making a difference continue coming together and try to reach the sea to save human lives.
These photographs portray some little moments within the story of those who resist, who flee from inhumane contexts, the death at our borders’ doorstep and the hope of those that fight for their lives and a better society, open, supportive, inclusive. The legendary Iuventa represents all this, and it lives in those that don’t give up.