German shipowners appeal to Bundestag for more state aid for safe and rescue missions urgently required for Mediterranean boat refugees
In view of the sharp rise in the number of refugees in the Mediterranean Sea, the German Shipowners’ Association (VDR) has called upon the federal government and the EU heads of state and governments to massively expand state safe and rescue efforts in the region without delay.
Ralf Nagel, Chief Executive Officer of the VDR, said: “In the past several months our member companies have rescued over 5,000 refugees in distress in the Mediterranean Sea. Merchant vessels are summoned by the Italian coast guard for rescue missions on a daily basis. In the process, our seafarers keep reaching their physical and mental limits. Refugees drown time and again before their eyes or die on board due to exposure. Despite all preparations, merchant vessels are not equipped for rescue and medical treatment of partly several hundreds of refugees.”
Today the German Bundestag is debating the refugee crisis in the Mediterranean Sea in a special session. In this context, Nagel said: “We expect support from the German Bundestag as well as a clear mandate to Chancellor Merkel for tomorrow's EU summit meeting to expand safe and rescue operations by EU states massively in the Mediterranean Sea – and very soon. In addition, we need medical assistance on board. The refugees include many sick and injured persons, but also women in an advanced state of pregnancy. Germany needs to make a substantial contribution and the other EU member states must make a concerted effort as well. After all, the number of refugee boats is expected to rise even further in the next few weeks. A passage on hopelessly overloaded, non-ocean-going boats represents a mortal hazard even in the spring.”
The maritime coordinator of the CDU/CSU faction in the German Bundestag, Rüdiger Kruse, has pledged to make additional funding available and to adopt short-term measures to rescue the people in peril at sea. Ralf Nagel: “We explicitly wish to thank Rüdiger Kruse for his clear commitment to giving seafarers on merchant vessels relief by extending the scope of state resources for rescue missions. We are also very grateful for his immense appreciation of the enormous efforts made by seafarers to rescue thousands of human lives.
We hope that in the course of today’s Bundestag debate, there will be no repetition of statements to the effect that too many rescue missions at sea indirectly support the criminal human traffickers. That certainly would be a bizarre signal to our seafarers. After all, rescuing people in danger of drowning is a legal and iron-clad duty for ship crews. In doing so, we do not draw any distinction with regard to the origin of the people in distress and what their objectives are. However, we expect the EU member states to provide the maritime shipping sector with much stronger relief from this task than in the past. Moreover, we need political solutions fast in order to be able to manage the flow of refugees via the Mediterranean Sea as a whole.”
In 2014, merchant ships took more than 40,000 refugees on board in over 800 rescue missions. In the last several days alone, more than 10,000 boat refugees have been rescued by maritime shipping and the Italian coast guard.
The German Shipowners’ Association (VDR):
The German Shipowners' Association (Verband Deutscher Reeder, VDR) is responsible for representing the common business and social policy interests of German shipping companies at federal and state government level. The VDR was founded in 1907 and merged with the Association of German Coastal Shipowners (Verband der Deutschen Küstenschiffseigner) in 1994. With approximately 220 members, the German Shipowners’ Association represents the lion’s share of the German merchant navy.