Over the weekend, two collections, one in Germany and one running on Facebook in Italy, have managed to gather over 1.3 million euros in order to help the German Organization Sea-Watch and their captain Carola Rackete, who is under arrest in Italy for entering a port without permission.
"Saving lives is not a crime: Let’s help the sea rescuers rescue people!" reads the title of the crowdfunding campaign started on Saturday, June 29 by Jan Böhmermann and Klaas Heufer-Umlauf, two German TV presenters and satirists.
In their video appeal on YouTube, Böhmermann reminds viewers that summer is not just a time to "sit outside with a cold drink, go on holiday and stare at the Mediterranean." Instead, he tells us that “in the last few days, and almost every day, someone is drowning in that sea.”
'Those who save lives are not criminals'
After five minutes in which both Böhmermann and Heufer-Umlauf talk about how it is not possible to criminalize those who save other people’s lives they call on their viewers to donate money, in order to help the Sea Watch crew and the captain Carola Rackete who has been arrested by the Italian authorities for entering the port of Lampedusa without permission.
Some people have contributed 100 euros, others 50 and others 10 or five euros. In all, according to the site, over 33,000 people have shared their wish to contribute with others. Many more may have done so anonymously. On Tuesday, July 2 over 919,065 euros had been collected.
The rest of the money, according to the German news agency dpa has been collected by an Italian Facebook site which on Tuesday had more than 430,000 euros.
Political and civil solidarity
In addition, a Change.Org petition has also been set up in support of Carola Rackete, calling for her to be freed. The Sea Watch crew re-tweeted Change.org’s petition on Tuesday, stating they had collected more than 260,000 signatories to #freeCarolaRackete.
On July 2 at lunchtime, Sea Watch gave a press conference in Berlin.
They said they had been hoping that they would be able to share what was going to happen with Carola Rackete’s legal case but they are still waiting. They said they were very pleased with the solidarity shown by both civil society and politicians and reiterated their call for a political solution to the problem. They said their boat Sea-Watch 3 had been impounded and was on its way to the Sicilian port of Licata.
Böhmermann and Heufer-Umlauf said that the money would be used by Sea Watch for whatever they considered most urgent. Sea Watch had stated that it would use the money to fund the legal counsel for Rackete and Pia Klemp, another captain facing charges in Italian courts, and to buy another ship if the Sea-Watch 3 continues to be impounded.
At the press conference, one of the Sea Watch spokespeople reiterated the fact that there were not enough boats on the Mediterranean and more needed to be done to stop people from drowning. Fishing boats were continuing to bring people to shore when they could, but that was not enough, Sea-Watch added.
Carola Rackete, the captain of the Sea Watch 3, who is currently under house arrest in Italy said to the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, in an interview published on Sunday described the situation, that led her to bring the migrants to the port of Lampedusa, as "desperate." She added: "My goal was only to bring exhausted and desperate people to shore." The Italian authorities have accused her of putting a military speedboat and its occupants at risk as she forced her way into port on July 29. The migrants the crew had rescued on June 12 had been at sea for three weeks.
In the meantime, Italy's Deputy Prime Minister, Matteo Salvini, tweeted on Sunday that Rackete belongs in prison. He said that the prosecutor in the Sicilian town of Agrigento, which is also responsible for the island of Lampedusa, had been clear when he said that Rackete's actions were "not necessary." Salvini captioned the interview the prosecutor gave to Italian state broadcaster Rai with the sentence: "The Agrigento Prosecutor's words are clear: That German outlaw [Rackete] deserves prison."