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34C3 - The seizure of the Iuventa

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    34C3 preroll music
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    Herald Angel: And I'm very happy to have 2
    speakers here who
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    will tell us about their
    experiences on the Iuventa, the ship that
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    was seized in august this year. Kathrin
    has been doing search and rescue
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    operations in the mediteranean since 2
    years, and she was on board when the boat
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    was seized, when the Iuventa was seized,
    and she was even Head of Staff. Hendrik
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    has also been active in such a rescue
    operation as a RHIB
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    chuckles
    Voice-over: driver
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    Herald Angel: RHIBer, which is a kind of
    special function, and he has also been
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    doing this for 2 years approximately, for
    different NGOs. And I am very happy that
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    they are here and can tell us about what
    happend on the Iuventa. So, we have
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    translation to German on the Mumble that
    is in the back now, and yeah, please
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    welcome them to the big applause, thank
    you.
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    applause
    Hendrik: Hello. Yeah. Yeah. Thanks for the
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    introduction. Hello everybody. Welcome to
    the talk "The Seizure of the Iuventa". We
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    are glad that a few people made it here.
    When we actually planned for the talk we
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    were planning for one hour, so we put a
    lot of content in the description and it
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    was only two weeks ago that we learned we
    only have half an hour so we were really
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    pressed to focus a bit. So. Yeah what I
    will do is I will give you a quick
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    introduction into the area we operate in
    which is the central Mediterranean. I will
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    tell you what we do there. And after that
    Kathrin will talk about the actual seizure
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    of the Iuventa. So this is Kathrin, I'm
    Hendrik obviously, I think you already
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    noticed that. So yeah I like maps. So I
    put this map in the slides. So, migration
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    is happening we all know that. And people
    are trying to reach Europe for, yeah in
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    search of a better and safer life. So the
    reasons why they are fleeing are very
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    different. There are war, violence,
    discrimination, prosecution, or poverty.
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    They all have their reasons to leave their
    homes. So what we see here is the routes
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    these refugees take are constantly
    changing and that is due to changing
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    political circumstances. We have different
    routes through the Mediterranean. For a
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    while now we have the eastern route that
    was quite famous two years ago when a lot
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    of people tried to cross the Mediterranean
    from Turkey to Greece. That was basically
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    closed. We had the western route like 10,
    15 years ago. A lot of people tried to
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    cross it from Morocco to Spain or to the
    Canary Islands. And at the moment we
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    mainly are focusing on the central
    Mediterranean route, that is where all the
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    migration, or most of the migration is
    happening. People are trying to cross
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    mainly from Libya, which is the brown spot
    at the bottom, to Italy. In the last
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    couple of months there also were people
    trying to cross from Tunisia, but still
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    the main part of the migration is
    happening through Libya. So to give you a
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    better understanding about what we are
    talking here, we draw you a map with some
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    distances on it. The distances are given
    in nautical miles. That is the unit we use
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    at sea. Just to give you an example: Under
    perfect conditions, a refugee boat that
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    would leave Libya would take at least 3
    days to Lampedusa, more than 4 days to
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    Malta, and more than 5,5 days to Sicily.
    That would be under perfect conditions
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    that never exist. There are always waves.
    There is the wind, the boats often don't
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    have a compass so they don't know where to
    go. So in fact the only boat we know of
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    that really made it to Malta was underway
    for 8 days. So the distances these people
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    have to cross, have to cover, are quite
    long. So the classic boats we encounter on
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    that route, these type of boats, below you
    see a wooden boat, these wooden boats have
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    really different sizes. They take from 100
    up to 1000 people. Usually 500 people with
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    plus minus 100, but their fit up to 1000
    people in them. And on the upper part you
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    see the typical boat that was used until
    last summer. That is the rubber boat. 120
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    to 150 people usually fit in there. But we
    also encountered boats with 180 people in
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    them. These conditions like these boats
    and the long distance and these not
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    seaworthy boats of course make this route
    the most dangerous route in the world. So
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    the most people trying to cross borders
    are dying in the Mediterranean. You see
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    this statistics, they are from the Missing
    Migrants Project. They only collect the
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    data off the known deaths. These are no
    absolute numbers, it's just a relation. So
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    the big dark blue part is the relation of
    the people dying in the Mediterranean
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    related to the rest of the world. So I
    think you all see that the Mediterranean
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    is really really a dangerous route to
    take. But still people are forced to take,
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    to use this route because Europe and their
    allies are basically closing off the
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    shorter and safer routes. So the
    international law states a duty to rescue
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    people in distress. We always have acted
    and complied with these laws of the sea
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    and these international laws and we are
    fulfilling a duty that usually is up to
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    the European Union but they are not
    willing to do that. So the NGOs had to
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    step in to rescue these people. So the
    region we are operating in ...
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    applause
    Thanks. The region we are operating in is
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    also regulated by international laws. You
    have Libya there of course the Libyan law
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    applies as well as in the C Zone on up to
    the 12 mile line, which is the red line
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    you see there. This is also Libyan
    territorial waters. And from the 12th mile
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    on it's basically international waters. We
    have the so-called contiguous zone up to
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    24 miles, where the Libyan authorities
    have certain law enforcement rights, but
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    it still is international waters. So the
    blue shape you see is the Search and
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    Rescue Area where we find most of the
    boats. And that is basically where we
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    operate up to the 12 mile line, we don't
    cross the 12 mile line usually. So to be
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    able to conduct effective operations we
    need of course to buy a ship, because
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    without a ship you cannot go there. So the
    Iuventa was bought and the Iuventa was
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    sent to the area where most boats get in
    distress. That means we are doing
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    proactive search and rescue. Proactive in
    this case means we go there before boats
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    get in distress and actively search for
    them. That is because ships move slowly so
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    we cannot wait on Malta until ships get
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    in distress, until boats get in distress
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    because it would take us 24 hours to get
    there. So for us it is important to be
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    there when the people depart from shore,
    because these boats you saw the pictures
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    on the slides before they are immediately
    a distress case, as soon as they are in
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    the open sea, there's no discussion about
    that. As soon as one of these overcrowded
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    boats is in the open sea they are a
    distress case. They don't have to sink to
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    be a distress case. So we need to go there
    before they depart to be able to help
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    immediately. The Iuventa is a very small
    ship, you can see that it's only 33 metres
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    long. There's not much people fitting on
    there and for transfer, it usually can
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    take only the crew. So we act as a first
    response unit. When we find the boats in
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    distress, we secure them with life jackets
    and life rafts. So we supply lifejackets
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    to the people on the boat and, if
    necessary, bring out life rafts and
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    evacuate people on the life rafts. And
    then call for bigger ships that transfer
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    them to Italy. You can see one of the
    bigger ships here. It's the Vost Prudence.
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    It was used by MSF, it was chartered
    basically, and this is a way bigger ship
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    and it can take way more people and it can
    bring them safely to Italy. So these
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    transfers to these big ships we always do
    in close cooperation with the Maritime
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    Rescue Coordination Center in Rome, the
    so-called MRCC. The MRCC is responsible
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    for distress cases in that area. They
    are there to coordinate the rescue
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    operations and they are always ordering
    the transfer of the migrants. So whenever
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    we transferred migrants to one of these
    big ships, the MRCC ordered us to do so,
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    we never did that on our own. But you have
    to keep in mind: The MRCC is not an agency
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    that is acting independently. It basically
    is a subordinate of the Interior Ministry
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    in Italy, so it is bound by instructions
    to the Interior Ministry. You have to keep
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    that in mind for later when Kathrin is
    telling you something. As I already said:
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    The Iuventa is not suited to transport
    people to a place of safety. It is only
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    there to secure them. That was always
    clearly communicated with the MRCC and we
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    always acted as a first responder, and
    secured the situation. That was our job.
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    That is what we are good at. So this is
    how we operated from the beginning, and
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    this is how we operated on another NGO
    vessel I've been in 2016, the Minden. It
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    was the same case: We were there as a
    first responder, we secured the people,
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    transferred them to bigger vessels, they
    then brought them to Italy. This is also
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    how all the other NGOs working there
    worked, like CI Sea-Watch, MSF, Safe the
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    Children, Moas Mission, Lifeline, and all
    the other NGOs working there. We're not
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    alone there. And it was a successful,
    proven concept. So just to tell it once
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    more: The concept is we have smaller
    boats, staying there, securing the people,
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    and once they are secured we call for
    bigger ships, call for help, transfer them
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    to these bigger ships, and they then bring
    them to a place of safety, which usually
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    is Italy. But in May 2017 suddenly some
    things started to change for the Iuventa.
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    Kathrin: Thank you.
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    One thing I may want to emphasize again
    is that everything we did was always
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    under the coordination of the Rescue
    Coordination Center in Rome in Italy and
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    up until then we really had a good working
    relationship with them. We were conducting
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    successful and very efficient search
    operations, rescue operations. Maybe a
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    little bit too efficient. So we can say a
    chain of unusual events started in May
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    this year. And one situation I want to
    talk about now is when we received
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    distress calls over the radio about
    numerous migrant boats in distress in an
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    area we were in. And the other ships in
    vicinity who had found those boats, they
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    called us and asked for our assistance to
    rescue these people, and up until that not
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    an unusual situation. However all of a
    sudden we were requested by the MRCC, the
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    coordination center in Rome, to withdraw
    to leave the Search and Rescue Zone
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    immediately and to go to Lampedusa. So to
    make that clear: We were ordered to ignore
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    distress calls of people at imminent, who
    were at imminent threat of their life and
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    go away. This has never happened before
    until then. So as you can imagine we were
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    torn back and forth whether we should
    actually do that, or not. We were somewhat
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    obliged to follow their instructions but
    it did mean obviously that we had to leave
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    people on these boats in distress behind.
    And I can remember the persistent efforts
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    that day we were trying to make, and also
    others were trying to make, to keep the
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    Iuventa in the SAR Zone for that, for that
    situation. However, it did not work out,
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    they continued insisting. And finally we
    had to give in, and proceed to Lampedusa.
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    Unfortunately, later we learned that those
    two days when the Iuventa was absent,
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    which turned into one of the most busiest
    rescue periods we had seen in 2017. Many
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    hundred people lost their lives and the
    remaining capacities in the SAR Zone were
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    just way beyond their capacities. So this
    very procedure continued twice: Once more
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    in May, and another time in June. And
    again: Back then we were absolutely in the
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    dark as to what could possibly be the
    motivation behind such instructions and we
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    realized something had changed, the good
    working relationship with the MRCC for
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    some reason wasn't that good anymore. But
    we did not understand what was going on,
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    why are they behaving like that. And I
    mean we have to realise that: This is an
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    authority whose duty it is to coordinate
    rescues at sea, and to save people's lives
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    at sea. And they are withdrawing and
    actively reducing Search and Rescue ships
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    from where and when they're needed most.
    We were utterly astonished, not to say,
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    speechless. And we could imagine various
    scenarios until then. Of course we were
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    quite aware that the situation they were
    dealing with is really, I mean, not easy
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    to deal with. So we were a lot of the
    times putting it down to "Hey, okay,
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    they're probably really overwhelmed with
    dealing all these increasingly complicated
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    rescues in the Mediterranean, and
    eventually that leading to really poor
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    decision making". However such incidents
    kept occuring. And at the end of July the
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    Italian coast guard transferred 2 migrants
    on board of the Iuventa. And they had
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    found them in a really small rubber boat.
    They had left from Tripoli and they
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    requested us to take them on board. So
    again that was a rather unusual event,
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    never happened before, as we learned from
    Hendrik before. The boats are usually a
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    little bit bigger than three metres and
    there are usually a few more people than
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    two on there. Yet, you know, what if
    what's happening out there is actually
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    normal. So yes we took those 2 people on
    board and we accommodated our guests for
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    two days before we actually got any
    instructions as to how to continue, and we
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    were kind of almost expecting that we had
    to proceed to Lampedusa with our two
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    guests. So on the way to Lampedusa,
    approximately half way, we received
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    another distress call from Rome, about a
    boat that had apparently left in Tunesia
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    in the early morning. And what was really
    interesting that day was that they gave us
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    super precise instructions as to how to
    perform a search pattern. A search pattern
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    is like the organized way of performing a
    search at sea with the coordinates and
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    distances to speeds you go, so they were
    in total control of what we did and how we
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    did it, and they were making sure
    continuously that we are following their
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    plan. Something never happened before
    because usually they were really not
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    interested in how we performed the search,
    as long as we found the boats, obviously.
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    While they were making us perform a search
    pattern that would have taken us three
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    days to complete, the way they ordered us
    to do it, they neither gave us an official
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    distress notification, nor an official
    search and rescue case number, both of
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    which would be the usual procedure. And
    probably worth by adding is that also the
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    Iuventa was the only ship involved in that
    search that day, all the other ships were
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    just not a few between Tunisia and
    Lampedusa had not been, obviously, not
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    been informed. Another private rescue ship
    that was, that happened to be in the area
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    was initially declined by the MRCC to
    support us. Then I kept insisting like:
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    "Hey guys, we cannot possibly
    do this on our own".
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    And so eventually they allowed them to
    join into the search. Very interesting
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    also is that we requested the support
    of a surveillance plane,
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    of a private surveillance plane
    by Sea-Watch, the Moon Bird,
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    and it was completely rejected and
    declined from morning till evening that
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    day. So Moon Bird never left the ground in
    Malta that day. And yet believe it or not:
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    We were still not fully convinced that the
    MRCC's decisions are actually really
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    solely driven by the interests of the
    Ministry of Interior in Italy.
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    We were still somewhat in denial, thinking
    that, you know, something like law
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    enforcement would be beyond their scope,
    really. And so our paranoia level had
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    simply just not, could not grasp yet the
    dimension of where this would take us.
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    Until the very moment when we reached
    Italian territorial waters close to
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    Lampedusa, and 4 Coast Guard ships
    escorted us with blue lights into the
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    harbor of Lampedusa. And the Iuventa was
    searched and seized on August 2nd. So,
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    slowly it was dribbling, all these events
    beforehand started to make sense, fell
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    into place. And in fact, there are a lot
    of facts now, in hindsight that were, you
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    know, we can, that we can put in order,
    and we know that the warrants for the
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    search, as well as for the seizure, had
    both been signed one day before we
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    actually came to Lampedusa. And also the
    complete confiscation order of the Iuventa
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    had been leaked to the media in advance so
    they could they could be there, they could
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    receive us in the middle of the night.
    They were waiting for us at the peer, the
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    Italian press. And, you know, then you
    think: "Okay, that search pattern we did.
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    What was that about? Were they buying time
    to fly in all these police officers that
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    ended up on our ship?" But one thing we
    know for sure now is that the scenario I
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    talked about before when they withdrew the
    Iuventa from distress calls that day in
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    May, there was actually a price they
    accepted to pay to install a bug on the
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    bridge of the Iuventa that day. Also when
    they continuously ordered the Iuventa back
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    to Lampedusa, I mean, now that kind of
    starts making sense as well if you
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    consider that the capacity of a SD card
    may not be that big over such a long time.
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    Roundabout the same time when the bug was
    installed on the bridge of the Iuventa
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    there were also 2..., there was also 1
    undercover cop placed on another private
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    rescue ship and he later produced forged
    evidence to incriminate the crew of the
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    Iuventa. So in fact, the investigation, we
    then learned, of the Iuventa crew by the
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    Italian authorities was started as early
    as September 2016 (last year) when two
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    security officers on board of another
    vessel, they were both former cops, had
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    proactively informed not only special
    police forces dealing with organized crime
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    in Sicily, but also the Italian foreign
    intelligence service and a politician of
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    the Lega Nord in Italy, and although their
    testimonies were somewhat contradictory
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    and they were reporting strange behavior
    of the Iuventa, they actually did prompt a
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    large scale investigation. So the
    accusations that are meant to justify the
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    seizure of the ship include: Facilitation
    of illegal immigration, Collusion with
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    human traffickers, and possession of
    firearms. However, until this day, there
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    are no criminal charges against any
    individual crewmembers, nor against the
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    organization, which I guess works in their
    favor as well because they have reached
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    what they wanted, they bought time, they
    have one ship less in the Search and
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    Rescue area at the moment. And the moment
    they actually get a trial they start
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    having to produce real evidence, which may
    be trouble for them. So the seizure of the
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    Iuventa they called a so-called
    'Preventive Measure', and that was only
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    enabled by Anti-Mafia laws, which by the
    way were also used against..., for similar
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    cases like the Capandamur in 2005 and
    Tunisian fishers in 2007, both of which
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    cases the charges had to be dropped after
    some years. Still the damage was done. So
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    we have of course appealed the seizure, in
    the meantime, at the court in Trapani,
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    but, as we expected, that was rejected and
    has been taken to the next level at the
  • 24:23 - 24:30
    Supreme Court in Rome. And yeah, we are
    now waiting for them to decide whether
  • 24:30 - 24:36
    actually the seizure of the Iuventa was
    legal or not.
  • 24:36 - 24:41
    Hendrik: What we had to learn in the
    aftermath was that the seizure of the
  • 24:41 - 24:47
    Iuventa was only a small part in a way
    bigger political fight. What the EU
  • 24:47 - 24:51
    actually wants to do is they want to shut
    down the central Mediterranean route at
  • 24:51 - 24:55
    all costs, and what they also want to
    prevent is pictures of drowning people.
  • 24:55 - 24:59
    And instead of sending ships there to
    rescue these people, what they want to do
  • 24:59 - 25:04
    is they want to get rid of the witnesses
    that document how the people drown and
  • 25:04 - 25:10
    actually save them. So they are trying to
    stop the NGOs from working there.
  • 25:10 - 25:14
    applause
    boo
  • 25:14 - 25:20
    So what we learned is that the fight for
    the Iuventa we are fighting at the moment
  • 25:20 - 25:24
    is not a legal fight but a political
    fight, and we are waging that fight
  • 25:24 - 25:29
    together with a lot of other NGO that are
    active there in the central Mediterranean.
  • 25:29 - 25:33
    So for us of course the seizure of the
    Iuventa was a drawback. We don't have a
  • 25:33 - 25:38
    ship anymore which with which we can
    operate. But still you can see also with
  • 25:38 - 25:43
    constant pressure, sometimes there are
    positive surprises. For example in
  • 25:43 - 25:49
    December the United Nations made an
    evacuation flight for migrants from Libya
  • 25:49 - 25:54
    directly to Europe. And that of course was
    only possible because of the constant
  • 25:54 - 25:59
    media work a lot of NGOs did so that the
    European Union had to react and allow
  • 25:59 - 26:05
    that. So what this also shows us is that
    with patience and continuous struggle it
  • 26:05 - 26:09
    still is possible to drill small holes
    into the walls of Fortress Europe.
  • 26:10 - 26:13
    Kathrin: Yes, continue that fight!
    Thank you.
  • 26:13 - 26:14
    Hendrik: Thanks.
  • 26:14 - 26:34
    applause
    cheer
  • 26:34 - 26:45
    Herald Angel: Breathtaking. Thank you so
    much. So, do we have questions? We have
  • 26:45 - 26:55
    some microphones in the Saal, so you can
    just go there, and place yourself. Okay, I
  • 26:55 - 26:59
    think I will start with number 6.
    Microphone No. 6: Yes, hello, thank you
  • 26:59 - 27:06
    for the good work. You mentioned a charge
    of firearms on the ship. Were there any?
  • 27:06 - 27:12
    Kathrin: Good question. No, they have not
    found any evidence at all during the
  • 27:12 - 27:19
    search, and we also later learned that
    they had to include this section into the
  • 27:19 - 27:24
    accusation to actually justify the seizure
    at all, because those are the two
  • 27:24 - 27:31
    accusations whould've not been strong
    enough to justify the seizure.
  • 27:31 - 27:37
    Herald Angel: Okay, microphone 1 please.
    Microphone 1: Thank for the talk. 3 quick
  • 27:37 - 27:41
    questions: How much did the Iuventa cost?
    How much would it cost to buy a new ship?
  • 27:41 - 27:47
    And is this feasible?
    laughter
  • 27:47 - 27:52
    Hendrik: I actually have no idea much that
    ship cost, do you know that?
  • 27:52 - 27:59
    Kathrin: I roughly know how much a ship in
    that size would cost now, at a similar
  • 27:59 - 28:10
    age. We are probably looking at between
    180.000 to 250.000 Euro. And feasible or
  • 28:10 - 28:15
    not, from an economic point of view
    probably doable, yes, I mean, people have
  • 28:15 - 28:20
    done it before, and it's probably possible
    to do it again. From a political point of
  • 28:20 - 28:29
    view it's certainly debateable whether...,
    how to proceed and what the right action
  • 28:29 - 28:37
    is at this point.
    Herald Angel: Okay, we have a Signal, we
  • 28:37 - 28:40
    have a question from the Internet, please.
    Signal Angel: Is what happened to your
  • 28:40 - 28:45
    ship unique, or are there other ships that
    have been seized?
  • 28:45 - 28:48
    Kathrin: Can... I didn't understand the
    question.
  • 28:48 - 28:52
    Hendrik: Actually it's... The seizure is
    unique but there have been other ships
  • 28:52 - 29:01
    that have been searched by the cops like
    from Save the Children and MSF.
  • 29:01 - 29:05
    Herald Angel: Okay, number 1 please.
    Kathrin: Something to the answer of that
  • 29:05 - 29:12
    question: We... In our file we certainly
    also know that while they are
  • 29:12 - 29:18
    investigating against the Iuventa crew,
    they have tapped phones of numberous
  • 29:18 - 29:24
    people that also work for all the other
    NGOs, mainly in Italy, so we know that
  • 29:24 - 29:31
    this is going over and beyond what
    happened to us, but we were just a, like a
  • 29:31 - 29:37
    digestible bite, to put it that way.
    Herald Angel: What a bite. Okay, number 1
  • 29:37 - 29:42
    please.
    Microphone 1: Let's say I've got a half a
  • 29:42 - 29:47
    year of free time on hand... where do I
    sign up?
  • 29:47 - 29:53
    laughter
    applause
  • 29:53 - 29:57
    Hendrik: Sounds great, I can invite you to
    come to the assembly afterwards. We have
  • 29:57 - 30:01
    an "Just humans" assembly in hall 2 where
    a lot of these NGOs I mentioned in the
  • 30:01 - 30:06
    talk actually are, so just come and talk
    to us, and find us there.
  • 30:08 - 30:12
    Herald Angel: Okay, one last question, I
    hope it's a short question because we just
  • 30:12 - 30:16
    got 2 more minutes.
    Microphone: Thanks for the talk, and
  • 30:16 - 30:22
    thanks for the work you do. One question:
    The bug, was it actually legal? Was it a
  • 30:22 - 30:28
    legal operation that they did that? And
    how do you know that there is a bug, that
  • 30:28 - 30:31
    there have been a bug?
    Kathrin: We know that there is a bug
  • 30:31 - 30:36
    because that was a... it's part of the
    investigation file that we were handed
  • 30:36 - 30:44
    over, part of the 500 pages investigation
    file. We know the exact date and time,
  • 30:44 - 30:48
    when the bug has been installed, and
    roundabout where, namely on the bridge of
  • 30:48 - 30:53
    the Iuventa. Whether or not that action
    was legal, because we are looking at
  • 30:53 - 31:02
    Italien authorities, planting a bug on a
    ship under Dutch flag, bugging people in
  • 31:02 - 31:09
    interational waters, mostly from German
    decent. Until today we have not got a
  • 31:09 - 31:18
    clear answer to that question, we are
    still asking a number of lawyers around
  • 31:18 - 31:25
    Europe and it's probably a situation that
    doesn't happen too often. Also you're
  • 31:25 - 31:28
    warmly invited to come around to our
    assembly and we can talk about that a
  • 31:28 - 31:32
    little bit more, because that's one of the
    most interesting and pressing questions we
  • 31:32 - 31:37
    have as well.
    Herald Angel: Okay. So, like the two said:
  • 31:37 - 31:41
    Assembly Hall 2, just Humans, is the space
    where you can meet them, where you can ask
  • 31:41 - 31:51
    more questions. And thank you once again!
    applause and cheer
  • 31:51 - 31:52
    Kathrin: Thanks for having us!
    applause continues
  • 31:52 - 32:13
    34c3 postroll music
Title:
34C3 - The seizure of the Iuventa
Description:

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Video Language:
English
Duration:
32:14

English subtitles

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