The Civil Fleet Podcast

Ben Cowles

Saving lives at sea is not a crime But for the past few years, European states have treated those brave enough to save refugees from drowning in the Mediterranean as if they were breaking the law. Welcome to The Civil Fleet, a podcast by civilfleet.com that focuses on the NGO refugee rescuers in the central Mediterranean and beyond. read less

Episode 34: Europe's ‘black sites’ & secret asylum-seeker pushbacks on commercial ships
Jan 28 2023
Episode 34: Europe's ‘black sites’ & secret asylum-seeker pushbacks on commercial ships
In today's episode, we speak with Klaas van Dijken, one of the co-founders of the investigative journalism organisation Lighthouse Reports.  Klaas talks to us about two recent investigations he and his team worked on: • How asylum seekers are held in secret prisons on commercial ships to facilitate illegal pushbacks from Italy to Greece, and • How refugees are being arbitrarily detained and tortured at secret facilities along EU borders before being illegally forced back across borders. ---Get in touch--- Twitter: @FleetCivil Mastodon: @civilfleet@kolektiva.social info@civilfleet.com Support:  ko-fi.com/civilfleet ---Show Notes--- Lighthouse Reports website can be found here: lighthousereports.nl To read the two stories discussed in this episode, see here:  • Detained below deck: bit.ly/3R97fVF • Europe’s Black Sites: bit.ly/3HAlY8H  Find Lighthouse Reports on Twitter here: @LHreports Here's a BBC news story from 2014 on the ECHR ruling on Italy's practice of sending people back to Greece: bbc.in/3DjDMT9   What is the Dublin Agreement? Read this explainer by InfoMigrants: bit.ly/3WQj9oI Here's a report from The Brussels Times on the new Frontex chief Hans Leijtens saying the agency needs to "restore trust": bit.ly/408AUlH  Klaas mentions a report Lighthouse published on Frontex's involvement in illegal pushbacks. You can read that here: bit.ly/3XGhtPv  Ben mentions the 200 missing asylum seekers children in Britain. Read about that here: bit.ly/3DjeB3d  Klaas briefly mentions No Name Kitchen. Find out more about them here: nonamekitchen.org and/or check out episode 6 of The Civil Fleet podcast
Episode 33: Preventing pushbacks at the Lithuania-Belarus border
Jan 14 2023
Episode 33: Preventing pushbacks at the Lithuania-Belarus border
In today's episode, we speak with Dalia, an activist from the Lithuanian human rights and medical aid organisation, Sienos Grupe (Border Group in English). She tells us about the conditions faced by people trapped at Lithuania's border with Belarus, which has been sending people towards the EU since 2021, and how Russia may also be involved.  Dalia describes how Sienos Grupe are helping to prevent pushbacks at the border and support people in the country's refugee camps, as well as those who decide to stay in Lithuania.  We also hear how some Sienos Grupe members have been criminalised for their human rights work.  ---Get in touch---Twitter: @FleetCivil Mastodon: @civilfleet@kolektiva.social info@civilfleet.com Support:  ko-fi.com/civilfleet ---Show Notes--- For more on the Sienos Grupe, visit their website here: sienosgrupe.com Follow Sienos Grupe on Facebook (with updates in English and Lithuanian): facebook.com/sienosgrupe For more on The Civil Fleet's stories on the Belarus border, see here: bit.ly/3WaC9xJ   Here's a map of Lithuania and Belarus: bit.ly/3Db62rd   Want to know more about the protests in Belarus? Check out these articles: bit.ly/3XaGpyz / bit.ly/3ZCiRo0 Here's an August 24, 2020 report by Al Jazeera on the protests in Belarus: bit.ly/3w4vpXG Read this December 2022 report by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) on the situation at Lithuania-Belarus border: bit.ly/3ZzZpYU  Here a 2021 monitoring report by the Lithuanian Red Cross on the situation at the border: bit.ly/3QGJMLl
Episode 32: Manston: Britain's overcrowded and unsafe migrant detention camp
Nov 14 2022
Episode 32: Manston: Britain's overcrowded and unsafe migrant detention camp
IN THIS episode we speak with Bethany Rielly, the home affairs reporter at the Morning Star newspaper, about the scandal surrounding the Manston migrant centre in Britain.  Manston is a former military base in Kent, which opened as a processing centre earlier this year for those who arrived into the country by crossing the Channel.  Bethany tells us how people are being detained in awful conditions at the overcrowded camp for weeks, when they are only supposed to be held there for 24 hours, and about the outbreak of Victorian-era diseases inside there.  We discuss how the recent far-right terrorist attack on a migrant processing centre in Dover made things worse for those detained at Manston, and how the British Home Secretary reacted to it with far-right rhetoric and conspiracy theories.  She also tells us about the protests against the conditions inside Manston and why the union that represents border guards is joining legal action against the government over it.  ---Get in touch--- @FleetCivil info@civilfleet.com Support:  ko-fi.com/civilfleet ---Show Notes--- You can follow Bethany Rielly on Twiiter via @bethrielly And you can find all of her stories for the Morning Star newspaper here: bit.ly/3Gaqwm9 You can find the Morning Star's website here: morningstaronline.co.uk Or follow it on Twitter here: twitter.com/M_Star_Online For anyone not familiar with British Politics, "the Tories" is the nickname of the ruling Conservative Party.  The UK Home Office is similar to the Department of Homeland Security in the US or the Ministry of the Interior and for Community in Germany.  The Home Secretary is currently Suella Braverman. Before her, it was Priti Patel. Both have been controversial figures and frequently demonised people seeking asylum in Britain. Here are some links to stories about Braverman's controversies:  • A general overview of her career in politics: bit.ly/3tt9d88 • A look at five controversial statements she has made: bit.ly/3UY3rat • And the time she made reference to "cultural Marxism," an antisemitic, Nazi-conspiracy theory: bit.ly/3TyteVq Confused by, or never heard about, cultural Marxism? Check this video out about it: bit.ly/3E5KUC7 Near the beginning of the episode, Bethany mentions the death of Alan Kurdi. He was a two-year-old Syrian-Kurdish boy who died in a shipwreck off the coast of Turkey. Photographs of his body lying face down on a beach were shown across the world. You can read more about him, here: bit.ly/3TxMEtB Stand Up to Racism, which Bethany mentions in the podcast, is an anti-fascist organisation. You can find more about them here: standuptoracism.org.uk. Want to know more about Lesbos? Then check out episode 28 with Alice and Hamid from Borderline Lesvos about their work on the island running a welcome centre for registered refugees For more on what was happening in Italy as this episode was being recorded, see the stories linked here: bit.ly/3GhUvZh  For more on the British government's Nationality and Borders Bill, and the Rwanda deportation scheme, check out episode 21 with Doctor's Without Borders (MSF) UK advocacy officer Sophie McCann Read my exclusive story on the rising numbers of deaths at Home Office asylum-seeker accommodations here: bit.ly/3O2qHlg Here's some links to Bethany's stories mentioned in this episode: • Refugee families detained in tents for weeks at ‘wretched’ holding centre in Kent: bit.ly/3WWYLU3 • Migrant centre in Kent ‘catastrophically overcrowded’, ministers warned: bit.ly/3EuheA9 • Protests break out inside ‘catastrophically overcrowded’ asylum processing centre: bit.ly/3WUHXNz • Children cry for help while trapped ‘like animals in a cage’ in overcrowded asylum centre: bit.ly/3X4jCVE • Harrowing conditions at Manston made me suicidal, former resident tells Morning Star: bit.ly/3tq9jNS • Hundreds demand end to ‘illegal and inhumane’ Manston detention centre: bit.ly/3URoMST •  Dover petrol bomb attack on migrant centre not treated as terror incident until two days after: bit.ly/3X4jJAy The RAF stands for The Royal Air Force Ben compares the Mantson Camp to Moria, which was an overcrowded camp on the Greek island of Lesbos. You can read more about that here: bit.ly/3O6kMvv Here's a link to Diane Taylor's story in the Guardian newspaper about the outbreak of MRSA at Manston: bit.ly/3Ob5YMk Here's the clip of BBC journalist talking about the UK 'defending itself on the frontline against migrants' that Ben mentions: bit.ly/3TACHf4  For more on The Channel, see here: bit.ly/3hBmads Check out Hope Not Hate here: hopenothate.org.uk For more on Action Against Detention and Deportations (AADD), see here: bit.ly/3UH6kNe
Episode 31: Kept at sea as food and water run low
Oct 7 2022
Episode 31: Kept at sea as food and water run low
In today's episode, we speak with SOS Humanity's human rights observer, Mirka Schäfer. Mirka tells us about the organisation's first rescue mission aboard the Humanity 1, and how it saved the lives of over 390 people in the central Mediterranean last month We hear about how the crew found 207 people in Malta's SAR zone who had been adrift at sea with no food and water for days.  After the crew brought them on board, the European authorities refused to allow the rescued to come ashore for another seven days. Mirka tells us all about that and what it was like when the ship's supplies began to run low.  ---Show Notes--- For more on SOS Humanity, visit: sos-humanity.org/en/home Follow SOS Humanity on Twitter here: @soshumanity_en For The Civil Fleet's coverage of SOS Humanity, see here: bit.ly/3V5ZaCx Read The Civil Fleet's coverage of the Humanity 1 here: bit.ly/3RHRMdV  For more on Alarm Phone, see episodes 3 and 5, or read about them here: bit.ly/3En4mvT To read the report that Mirka mentions in the interview, go here: bit.ly/3CMQVEB Mirka and Ben talk briefly about SOS Mediterranee. For more on them, see here: bit.ly/3SRTk5Y  Want to know more about the Nadir? Then check out episode 27 with Leon.  What is Frontex? It's the European Border and Coastguard Agency. Check out episode 23 with transparency activist Luisa Izuzquiza for a more in-depth look at them. Or read about it on The Civil Fleet, here: bit.ly/3EqjSaq For more on Frontex's cooperation with the Libyan Coastguards and its refusal to work with activist rescuers, see this interview with Sea Watch’s head of airborne operations Tamino Bohm on The Civil Fleet: bit.ly/38lSc8T and read this exposé: bit.ly/3yuKjZq You can read the exclusive story Ben mentions at the beginning of the episode here: More people die in Home Office asylum-seeker accommodation in first six months of 2022 than in the whole of 2021: bit.ly/3SHRJ2X  Get in touch: @FleetCivil info@civilfleet.com Support:  ko-fi.com/civilfleet
Episode 30: A new ship, same old problems
Sep 12 2022
Episode 30: A new ship, same old problems
In today's episode, we speak with David Llado, a search-and-rescue coordinator for the Spanish rescue organisation Open Arms. David talks to us the organisation's new ship, the Open Arms Uno, and runs us through what happened on its first mission.  He tell us why, despite the fact that the new vessel has gone through more official checks than any other ship in the Spanish fleet, the authorities may still block it from saving lives in the Mediterranean.  We also hear about the lengths European states have gone to stop the Open Arms' other ships, and how they break international law by refusing to provide the rescued with a safe port for days and days.  We end on the worrying potential return to power of Italy's far right leader Matteo Salvini.  ---Show Notes--- For more on the Open Arms, visit: openarms.es/en Follow Open Arms' English Twitter feed here: @openarms_found To read The Civil Fleet's coverage of the Open Arms, see here: bit.ly/3L3I2Zu Check out The Civil Fleet's December 2020 written interview with David Llado here: bit.ly/3RZrLat  Listen to Episode 13 with Albert Mayordomo for more on the Open Arms For more on the EU-Turkey migrant deal, see this article by the International Rescue Committee: bit.ly/3Di7rwO Watch the clip Ben mentions with the barber cutting hair on the Open Arms Uno here: bit.ly/3d5e9eR   Listen to episode 29 for more on David Yambio's story Also, hear about Syrian refugee Hasan's journey to the UK in episode 25 For more on the Colibri reconnaissance plane, see here: bit.ly/3B7oRcN  For more on Seabird reconnaissance plane, see episode 1, and/or read about them here: bit.ly/3qvSnnA Get in touch: @FleetCivil info@civilfleet.com civilfleet.com Support:  ko-fi.com/civilfleet
Episode 29: ‘I will keep knocking on Fortress Europe's walls’
Aug 14 2022
Episode 29: ‘I will keep knocking on Fortress Europe's walls’
IN today's episode, we speak with Yambio David Oliver, founder of the campaign group Refugees in Libya.    He tells us why he had to flee his home in South Sudan, about working in a gold mine in Chad and why he was forced to make the deadly desert crossing into Libya.   We hear about his time in the North African country, where he was treated like a slave, forced to join a militia, and made multiple attempts to escape across the Mediterranean.    He tells us about the Libyan Coastguards, who pushed him back to Libya from Maltese waters, about the police raids on refugees in Tripoli, and how the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) failed to protect them.    He tells us how he brought international attention to the plight of refugees in Libya, how his activism made him a target for the militias, and how he finally managed to escape the country.    ---Show notes---   For more on Refugees In Libya, see their blog here: refugeesinlibya.org, and The Civil Fleet's coverage here: bit.ly/3dwbsD7    Follow Refugees in Libya on Twitter: @RefugeesinLibya  You can read The Civil Fleet's previous interviews with Yambio here: bit.ly/3phm633 and here: bit.ly/3PmmcRy    Here's a response from the UNHCR on the situation outside its community day care centre in Tripoli in January: bit.ly/3bPFCAP   Early on in the interview, Yambio refers to himself as an IDP, an internally displaced person. You can read more about IPD on the UNHCR's website here: bit.ly/3PoGARY    If you need to see a map of Central and North Africa, and of the countries Yambio speaks about, see here: bit.ly/3dtYhT8   This 2016 Vox video seems to have a good (though US-centric) explanation of the Sudanese Civil War and South Sudanese Civil War: bit.ly/3BYKv58   Read this Al Jazeera article on child soldiers in South Sudan: bit.ly/3Au4qI9    Here's a couple of interesting articles on the gold mines in Chad: bit.ly/3piqbE5 and bit.ly/3C4jP2H   For more on the Italy-Libya Memorandum of Understanding, see episode 19 of The Civil Fleet podcast with Italian journalist Lorenzo D'Agostino. For more on Mohammed Al-Khoja and Bija, see this story by The Africa Report bit.ly/3C5BZBf, and this Guardian story: bit.ly/3pimX3v     For more on Alarm Phone, see episodes 3 and 5.   Get in touch: @FleetCivil info@civilfleet.com civilfleet.com   Support:  ko-fi.com/civilfleet
Episode 28: Refugee life, pushbacks and criminalisation on Lesvos
Jul 10 2022
Episode 28: Refugee life, pushbacks and criminalisation on Lesvos
In this episode, we hear from Alice and Hamid from Borderline Lesvos about their work on the island running a welcome centre for registered refugees. They tell us how the NGO helps people adjust to life on the island, and helps them with things like bureaucracy, housing and the Greek language. We hear about Moria camp 2, and how the kids languishing inside there are struggling with their mental health. They also speak about the dwindling numbers of refugees on the island, the illegal practice of refugee pushbacks, and how the authorities may in fact be employing the mafia to do this.  And they also discuss how the state is criminalising refugees on some truly ridiculous grounds. In fact, Hamid, a refugee himself, tells us how he was imprisoned for two years for something he didn't do.  ---Show notes--- For more on Borderline Lesvos, see borderlinelesvos.org And for their sister NGO, Borderline Europe, see: borderline-europe.de/?l=en  In this episode Ben mistakes Borderline Europe with Border Violence Monitoring Network, you can find out more about BVMN in episode 8.  For The Civil Fleet's coverage of Greece, see here: bit.ly/3IpMOzm For Lesvos/Lesbos, see: bit.ly/3NU3D6r For Moria 2 refugee camp, see: bit.ly/3uzfCQk Check out episode 25 to hear from Hasan, the Syrian refugee Ben mentions in this podcast For more on the Sappho Square protest mentioned by Hamid, read this: bit.ly/3AJDLHP  Want to know more about the Samos 2 and other criminalisations of refugees in Greece? Then see episode 26, in which we hear from  N and Hasan's lawyers Alexandros Georgoulis and Dimitris Choulis For more on the woman who tried to kill herself with fire who the authorities charged with arson, read this Info Migrants story here: bit.ly/3yUmpGH and Are Your Syrious's story on the postponement of her trial here: bit.ly/3c5Nz4g  For more on Sean Binder's case, see episode 16 for our interview with him and fellow activist Madi Williamson Get in touch: @FleetCivil info@civilfleet.com civilfleet.com   Support:  ko-fi.com/civilfleet
Episode 27: "They capsized into the water. Luckily most people were able to swim"
Jun 25 2022
Episode 27: "They capsized into the water. Luckily most people were able to swim"
One night in May this year, 110 people were crammed onto a wooden boat somewhere along Libya's Mediterranean coastline.  The boat was much too small for them all, and none of them had been given a life jacket. But they, much like the tens of thousands of others who have attempted to reach safety in Europe, must have been desperate to escape that war-torn country.  The people eventually made it into Malta's SAR zone, where the island nation was legally responsible for coordinating their rescue. But of course, Malta did no such thing.  Two activist-run rescue ships did come to their aid on May 24th. And while they were waiting on instructions from the authorities that night, the wind and waves began picking up.  The sea got so rough that the refugees' boat capsized, fling 110 people into the water in the pitch black of night.    In today's episode, Leon, an activist who was aboard the Nadir that night, is going to tell us all about the rescue operation, ResQship, and about the crew's run-ins with the EU-supported Libyan Coastguards too. ---Show notes--- For more on ResQship, visit their website here: resqship.org  A follow them on Twitter here: @resqship_int Follow The Civil Fleet's coverage of the Nadir here: bit.ly/39SnJjy For more on the Nadir's May 24 rescue mission, see here: bit.ly/3ylXlIA  The Nadir, at the time this episode was published, is currently carrying 19 people and is in desperate need of a port. Read The Civil Fleet's latest story on this here: bit.ly/3zYdJQC  Ben mentions the Sea-Watch 3, Sea-Eye 4 and the Ocean Viking near the beginning of the interview. If you want to know more about them, see episodes 22, 10, 7, and 1.  Get in touch: @FleetCivil info@civilfleet.com civilfleet.com   Support:  ko-fi.com/civilfleet
Episode 26: The Samos 2 and the criminalisation of refugees in Greece
Jun 12 2022
Episode 26: The Samos 2 and the criminalisation of refugees in Greece
In today's episode, we speak with lawyers Alexandros Georgoulis and Dimitris Choulis about the controversial legal case they worked on known as the Samos 2.   The Samos 2 are two Afghan refugees who tried to reach Greece by boat with 22 others in November 2020. Their boat got into trouble as it neared the island of Samos and capsized.   The Greek coastguards were aware of the incident, but did not launch a rescue.   The next day, one of the refugees, known only as N, found the body of his six-year-old son on the rocks. The cops arrested him and charged him with "endangering the life of his child." He faced 10 years in prison.    Hasan, another one of the refugees on the boat that night, was also arrested and charged with human trafficking because the authorities said he drove the boat. He faced 230 years behind bars.    Then in May 2022, both N and Hasan were freed and can now try to rebuild their lives in Greece.    Alexandros and Dimitris, who represented the Samos 2, are going to tell us about the injustice caused by the Samos 2 case, and the absurd EU directive that is causing refugees to be charged with human trafficking.    ---Show notes--- You can follow Alexandros Georgoulis on Twitter on: @GeorgoulisLAW   Dimitris Choulis is on Twitter on: @DimitrisChoulis   For more on the Samos 2, check out the Free the Samos 2 website here: freethesamostwo.com   And on The Civil Fleet here:  bit.ly/3twRMnx   For more on the Amir Zahiri and Akif Rasuli case, which Alexandros talks about, see here: bit.ly/39oAt1g   Read more about Hanad Abdi Mohammad's case here: bit.ly/3QhtWWB, here: nyti.ms/3mDQQtJ and here (if you read French or can translate the page): bit.ly/3mXWNSJ.   The Civil Fleet's stories on Greece can be found here: bit.ly/3QgPnHu.   Iason Apostolopoulos, mentioned right at the beginning of the interview, is a Greek rescue worker. We interviewed him on episode 18.   Get in touch: @FleetCivil info@civilfleet.com civilfleet.com   Support:  ko-fi.com/civilfleet
Episode 24: Twenty years behind bars for saving lives
May 20 2022
Episode 24: Twenty years behind bars for saving lives
In today's episode, we speak with Kathrin Schmidt, a rescue worker who saved the lives of 14,000 refugees in the Mediterranean Sea aboard the Iuventa five years ago.  This Saturday, May 21, she and three others from the ship are due to appear in an Italian court on charges of facilitating illegal entry into the country. They could all face 20 years behind bars.  The charges are bogus, of course, and Kathrin is going to tell us why. She will also explain how the Italian secret services wiretapped the Iuventa and surveilled journalists and lawyers speaking with their clients.  She will also explain what this case means for the future of activist-led sea rescues, and for the people on the move at Europe's edges. ---Show notes--- For more on the Iuventa, visit the website here: iuventa-crew.org If you can, you can set up a donation to them here: iuventa-crew.org/donate  Follow the Iuventa Crew on Twitter: @IuventaCrew You can also read this 2020 The Civil Fleet interview with Iuvena crew members Dariush Beigui and Hendrik Simon on their arrest here: bit.ly/38CdhMB And/or listen to episode 2, which features Sascha, the Iuventa's former head of operations You can read more of The Civil Fleet's Iuventa stories here: bit.ly/38EDH0e Read more about the EU-Turkey deal here: bit.ly/3wuQDPm  MRCC stands for Marine Rescue Coordination centre.  An SAR Zone stands for Search-and-rescue zone.  You can find a glossary of similar terms that often pop up on the podcast often here: bit.ly/3kGhkt0  Frontex is the European Border and Coastguard Agency. It has been accused of aiding the Greece authorities to illegally push people back across its borders and of assisting the Libyan Coastguard to intercept refugees escaping the country. See episode 23 for more. The Civil Fleet exposed how the EU's supposed training of the Libyan Coastguards, and Frontex's relationship with them, only made matters worse for those trying to escape across the Mediterranean. Read that here: bit.ly/3yNtYPH  Carola Rackete is an environmental and human rights activist from German. In June 2019, while captaining the Sea-Watch 3 and carrying 40 rescued refugees for 17-days, she sailed into port against the commands of the Italian authorities. She was placed under house arrest. But, in January 2020, Italy's highest court said she should never have been arrested nor charged with anything. You can read about that here: bit.ly/3sMCY3N  Sean Binder is another activist who has been arrested, detained and dragged through the courts for having saved hundreds of refugees lives. He appears in episode 16 of The Civil Fleet Podcast, along with Madi Williamson, a qualified nurse who has faced similar troubles for her humanitarian work.  The Samos 2 are two refugees, known as N and Hasan, who have been put on trial in Greece. Hasan was charged with human trafficking because he allegedly drove the boat they were on. N lost his son when their boat crashed as they approached the shore. He became the first refugee ever to be charged with "endangering the life of his child." On Wednesday, May 18, 2022, N was found innocent and Hasan was freed on a suspended sentence. You can read more about them here: freethesamostwo.com In the UK, the Appeals Court overturned the sentences of four people who were sent to prison for having driven dinghies across Channel. You can read about that here: bit.ly/3Lv2p0k  The Civil Fleet revealed in March 2021 that the UK government was spending up to £1 billion ($1.2bn / €1.1bn) on drones to fly over the Channel, the sole purpose of which appeared to be to help the state prosecute people seen driving the boats. Read about that here: bit.ly/3yNs0ik  Get in touch: @FleetCivil info@civilfleet.com civilfleet.com Support:  ko-fi.com/civilfleet
Episode 23: ‘Frontex's task is, and always will be, to stop people entering Europe’
May 11 2022
Episode 23: ‘Frontex's task is, and always will be, to stop people entering Europe’
In today's episode, we speak with transparency activist Luisa Izuzquiza from the German campaign group Frag Den Staat (Ask the State).  She tells us why Frag Den Staat and Sea-Watch are launching legal action against Frontex, the European Border and Coastguard Agency. She also explains why Frontex is an inherently violent institution that is incompatible with human rights, and why it should be abolished.  ---Show notes--- Check out Frag Den Staat's English website: fragdenstaat.de/en Follow Frag Den Staat on Twitter: @fragdenstaat Take a read of Frag Den Staat's press release on why they and Sea-Watch are taking legal action against Frontex: bit.ly/3sqPO7C Be sure to read up on Luisa Izuzquiza's work with Frag Den Staat here: bit.ly/3FP1dnz  For more on Switzerland's Frontex referendum, see here: frontex-referendum.ch/en/ And be sure to check out Abolish Frontex too: abolishfrontex.org/ Should you want to, you can see Frontex's official website here: frontex.europa.eu  For more on Frontex's cooperation with the Libyan Coastguards and its refusal to work with activist rescuers, see this interview with Sea Watch’s head of airborne operations Tamino Bohm on The Civil Fleet: bit.ly/38lSc8T and read this exposé: bit.ly/3yuKjZq You can read about former Frontex director Fabrice Leggeri's resignation on Politico here: politi.co/3M6IAOa  For more on Sea-Watch, see episodes 1 and 22 of The Civil Fleet Podcast.  A few times throughout the interview, Ben and Luisa refer to freedom of information requests by the initialism FOI.  Luisa mentions the 15M movement in Spain. You can read about them here: bit.ly/3M7se7P  For more on Spain's intelligence agency and its recent scandals, check out this story I wrote for the Morning Star in January: bit.ly/3yw7p28 and this more recent story in the Guardian newspaper: bit.ly/3yKGccb  For more on the threats to the freedom of information in Britain, see this 2021 article from the Press Gazette: bit.ly/3P6r2U6 and follow the Campaign for Freedom of Information's updates here: cfoi.org.uk If you'd like to learn more about FOI requests or make on in Britain, be sure to check out What Do Thet Know: whatdotheyknow.com  Lighthouse Reports revealed last month that Frontex aided at least 957 refugee pushbacks by Greece in 2020-2021. You can read more about that here: bit.ly/3ONFikm  Ben and Luisa briefly talk about the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla. For more on the refugee situation in Ceuta, check out episode 6 of The Civil Fleet Podcast with No Name Kitchen activist Irina Get in touch: @FleetCivil info@civilfleet.com Support:  ko-fi.com/civilfleet
Episode 22: ‘They drowned right in front of us’
Apr 30 2022
Episode 22: ‘They drowned right in front of us’
In today's episode, speedboat driver Brendan talks to us about the Sea-Watch 3's latest rescue mission in the Mediterranean, and what happened when he came across a shipwreck.  He also talks about how the Libyan Coastguards also handed over the people they'd saved over to his speedboat.  --- Show notes --- For more on Sea-Watch, visit: sea-watch.org/en Follow Sea-Watch on Twitter here: @seawatch_intl You can read Brendan's evocative article on the fourth rescue operation on The Civil Fleet here: bit.ly/3y2U296  For more on Derbyshire Refugee Solidarity, see here: derbyshirerefugeesolidarity.org Operation Mare Nostrum, which Brendan mentions in the episode, was an Italian search-and-rescue mission that saved over 150,000 of lives in the central Mediterranean. It was replaced by several EU navy missions: Operation Triton, Operation Sophia, etc. However, since 2019, the only dedicated rescue assets in the central Mediterranean have been those run by charities, activists and NGOs.  Brendan mentions the Colibri, which is a reconnaissance plane operated by the French NGO Pilotes Volontaires. You can find out more about them here: @PVolontaires or at pilotes-volontaires.org He also mentions Sea-Watch's reconnaissance plane Moonbird. You can read more about that here: bit.ly/38zRCEq or check out episode 1, in which Sea-Watch's Felix tells us all about it. Brendan refers to himself as "an angry Geordie" at one point in the interview. A Geordie is a nickname for people who come from Newcastle, in the northeast of England. Frontex is the European Border and Coastguard Agency. It has been accused on multi occasions of helping the Libyan Coastguards pull people back to Libya while ignoring NGO rescuers in the Mediterranean. The investigative journalists at Lighthouse Reports revealed this week that Frontex aided at least 957 refugee pushbacks by Greece in 2020-2021. You can read about it here: bit.ly/3ONFikm  Apologies for the loud sound around 55 minutes in. That was me taking off my glasses to wipe away a tear. Get in touch: @FleetCivil info@civilfleet.com Support:  ko-fi.com/civilfleet
Episode 21: The cruelty of Britain's Nationality and Borders Bill
Mar 21 2022
Episode 21: The cruelty of Britain's Nationality and Borders Bill
In today's episode, Doctor's Without Borders (MSF) UK advocacy officer Sophie McCann talks to us about the British government's Nationality and Borders Bill.  She tells us how the Bill borrows from the worst parts of immigration policies around the world, and how it could cause more harm to people seeking asylum in Britain.  Sophie also talks about the physical and mental harms caused by Australia's policy of offshoring asylum seekers on the pacific island of Nauru, and how the Bill appears to be inspired by it. --- Show notes --- For more on MSF, visit: msf.org.uk Follow MSF UK on Twitter here: @MSF_uk Check out the link below to see MSF's analysis of the Nationality and Borders Bill, and for details on how you can write to your MP: bit.ly/3irBer8  Sophie and Ben briefly mention Napier barracks in the podcast. For more on that, have a read of this article by Bethany Rielly in the Morning Star newspaper: bit.ly/36AdMFq  For more on the Greek coastguards allegedly dropping people into the Aegean Sea to drown, see this investigation by Lighthouse Reports: bit.ly/3wpMNHK  Also, check out episode 18 of The Civil Fleet Podcast with Mediterranea's Iason Apostolopoulos for more on this Ben and Sophie briefly mention the PCS Union's UK Border Force members threatening to strike over the proposed pushback policy. You can read more about that here: bit.ly/3in5R0X  Also, listen to our interview with Care4Calais's Clare Moseley in episode 17 for more details on that. You can read the policy proposals by the right-wing think-tank Policy Exchange, here: bit.ly/3qn3TC6 Here's an opinion piece in The Guardian newspaper on Alexander Downer's appointment to review the UK Border Force: bit.ly/3KZDT7N  You can read a 2018 MSF report on the extreme mental health suffering caused by Australia's policy of indefinitely offshoring asylum-seekers on Nauru here: bit.ly/3CYavfn Get in touch: @FleetCivil info@civilfleet.com Support:  ko-fi.com/civilfleet
Episode 20: The so-called Libyan Coastguard shoot at refugees as they tried to flee
Feb 26 2022
Episode 20: The so-called Libyan Coastguard shoot at refugees as they tried to flee
In today's episode, we speak with Leona of the Louise Michel, a refugee rescue ship funded in part by the elusive British street artist Banksy. During the Louise Michel's last mission in the central Mediterranean in January this year, the crew witnessed the EU-supported Libyan Coastguards shot at the people they had intercepted as they tried to swim away from them.  Leona tells us all about that, as well as the Louise Michel's previous missions: one earlier this year which saw fossil fuel giant Shell help send refugees stuck on one of its oil rigs to Tunisia, and how in 2020, the Maltese authorities abandoned the Louise Michel's crew with over 130 shipwreck survivors within its search-and-rescue zone.  --- Show notes --- For more on Louise Michel, visit: mvlouisemichel.org Follow Louise Michel on Twitter:  @MVLouiseMichel For more on Banksy, check out: banksy.co.uk or check him out on Instagram. For more on Louise Michel, the French anarchist and feminist, you can find some of her writings on the Anarchist Library, here: bit.ly/3tb5xaG. Zoe Baker has a great video about her here: bit.ly/3t9s87n. And I'd really recommend this graphic novel, The Red Virgin and The Vision of Utopia, too: bit.ly/3BT2sjo. Read this written interview with Louise Michel crew member Lea from 2020 here: bit.ly/3tfTA3g. Fossil fuel giant Shell and EU maritime authorities accused of complicity in Mediterranean refugee ‘pullback’: bit.ly/3vgBGjM. For more on the situation in Libya, check out episode 15 of The Civil Fleet podcast for an interview with European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights's Silvia Rojas-Castro and Lawyers for Justice in Libya's Elise Flecher. Leona mentions the Seabrid and Calibri 2 in the interview. These are two activist run reconnaissance plans, the first operated by Sea-Watch and the other by Pilotes Volontaires. Check out episode 1 of The Civil Fleet podcast for an interview with Sea-Watch's Felix about the Seabird and Moonbird planes.  Don't know what Alarm Phone is? See episodes 3 and 5.  For more on Mediterranea's Mare Jonio rescue ship, see episode 18.  Leona mentions that she was Rhib at one stage in the interview. A Rhib is an acronym for Rigid-hull Inflatable Boat - the kind of boat you'd see launched from a larger ship during rescue operations. Check out The Civil Fleet's glossary for more terms like this one: bit.ly/3Hnd2QP. For more on Europe's walls, read this 2018 report by the Transnational Institute, which points out that EU member states "have constructed almost 1,000km of walls, the equivalent of more than six times the total length of the Berlin Walls, since the nineties to prevent displaced people migrating into Europe:" bit.ly/3HlAkGJ. Get in touch: @FleetCivil info@civilfleet.com Support:  ko-fi.com/civilfleet
Episode 19: The injustices caused by the Italy-Libya Memorandum of Understanding
Feb 13 2022
Episode 19: The injustices caused by the Italy-Libya Memorandum of Understanding
This month marked the five-year anniversary of the EU-sponsored agreement between Italy and Libya. The deal led to millions of Euros bing spent on the so-called Libyan Coastguard and thousands of people being pushed back into Libya's condemned detention centres.  In today's episode, Italian journalist Lorenzo D'Agostino talks to us about some of the lesser known consequences of that deal, like how it made Libya's southern desert border more deadly and how the Italian anti-mafia squad has prosecuted people for steering their boats across the Mediterranean.  He also talks about how Europe's neocolonialist policies in Africa are driving the crisis and the journalistic problem of referring to people as refugees and migrants.   --- Show notes --- You can find more of Lorenzo's journalism here: lorenzodagostino.com And you can find him on Twitter here: @lorenzodago The three stories Lorenzo wrote that we talked about in this episode can be found below: Italy’s Failed Migration Fix Has Led to Chaos in Libya: bit.ly/3sCpdDZ Friends of the Traffickers: Italy's Anti-Mafia Directorate and the ‘dirty campaign’ to criminalise migration: bit.ly/3Js1y02 Inside Italy's show trial against Libyan ‘boat drivers’: bit.ly/34E5lZh You can find out more about the El Hiblu 3, here: bit.ly/3GLsPsr  Here you can read Amnesty International's condemnation of the Italy-Libya Memorandum of Understanding: bit.ly/34W3q1K Don't know who Open Arms or Alarm Phone are? Check out episode 13 for our interview with Open Arm's head of operations Albert Mayordomo, and episodes 3 and 5 with Alarm Phone activists Marie and Deanna.  Lorenzo mentions Antonio Gramsci and his theory of Cultural Hegemony in this interview. I think this video is a good place to start if you'd like to know more about the Italian Marxist and cultural hegemony: bit.ly/3HPfZe6  Dan O'Mahey is the UK's so-called Clandestine Channel Threat Commander. Here's an interesting read questioning what he is actually doing: bit.ly/3GGJ2Pr  Finally, you should definitely follow Refugees In Libya on Twitter is you haven't already: @RefugeesinLibya Get in touch: @FleetCivil info@civilfleet.com Support:  patreon.com/civilfleet ko-fi.com/civilfleet
Episode 18: ‘There is no end to this cruelty’
Feb 6 2022
Episode 18: ‘There is no end to this cruelty’
In today's episode, we speak with Iason Apostolopoulos, a search-and-rescue coordinator with Italian refugee rescuers Mediterranea: Saving Humans. We speak about the organisation's latest rescue operation aboard the Mare Jonio, and how the Italian cops put Mediterranea under investigation last year for supposedly facilitating the arrival of "illegal migrants." In July 2021, Iason was scheduled to receive the Medal of Honour from the Greek President for his search-and-rescue activities since 2015. But the country's right-wing government cancelled it at the last minute, calling him a "traitor to the state."  Iason tells us all about that too. ---Show notes--- For more on Mediterranea: Saving Humans, visit: mediterranearescue.org/en/  Or follow them on Twitter via: @RescueMed The International Rescue Committee has a great explanation of the EU-Turkey deal here: bit.ly/3B0Nvez Iason also worked on Doctors Without Borders' (MSF) rescue ship, the Geo Barents. For more on the Geo Barents, see here: bit.ly/3HtYsrF  Check out episode 14 of The Civil Fleet for an interview with the Geo Barent's search-and-rescue team leader Riccardo Gatti and midwife Kira Smith.  Ben and Iason mention Italy's former Interior Minister and leader of the far-right Lega Party Matteo Salvini. Read about a recent trial against him for blocking the Open Arms refugee rescue ship from entering a port in 2019 here: bbc.in/3gmyeeO The Aquarius was a refugee rescue ship operated by MSF and SOS Mediterranee between 2016 to 2018. You can read about why it was forced to stop its operations here: bit.ly/35WeOvr  Carola Rackete was captain of the Sea Watch 3. After a 17-day stand-off with the Italian authorities following the rescue of 40 people in 2019, Rackete was forced to enter the port of Lampedusa without permission. You can read about that here: bit.ly/3uIVvA7 For pictures of the Mare Jonio's last rescue mission, see here: bit.ly/3Hy1niZ Want to know more about Alarm Phone? Read about them here: bit.ly/3gqybyt or check out episodes 3 and 5. For more on how Frontex has aided the Libyan Coastguards to return thousands of people back to Libya since at least 2020, see here: bit.ly/3rre1uE   For more on the Maersk Etienne, see here: bit.ly/3HyJMHU Iason mentions the Iuventa at one point in the interview. Read an interview with two members of that ship here: bit.ly/3rppLO9 or check out episode 2. Want to know more about Unclos and Solas? Check this out unclos.org, and/or this: bit.ly/3smJzAS   Read Aegean Boat Report's story on the 25 people who were kidnapped by the Greek authorities after they reached Lesbos here: bit.ly/3rsJ60O For more on the situation in Greece on The Civil Fleet podcast, check out episodes 3, 4, 9 and 16. Read this New York Times story in the 12 people who froze to death after the Greek Coastguards allegedly kidnapped and stripped them: nyti.ms/3Jaigkl
Episode 16: Criminalising compassion and empathy
Jan 8 2022
Episode 16: Criminalising compassion and empathy
In today's episode we speak with Madi Williamson and Sean Binder, activists that have been targeted by the Greek authorities for their involvement with civilian-led refugee rescues. Sean — and several others who worked with Emergency Response Centre International on the island of Lesbos — was detained for months on charges of money laundering, people smuggling, and espionage. He could face years in jail for saving lives. Madi, a qualified nurse, has also been accused of spying. She was detained and strip searched by Greek police due to her work documenting refugee pushbacks in the Aegean Sea (see episodes 3,4, 9 and 12 for more on this subject). Both speak about their cases and discuss the dystopian knock on consequences of criminalising humanitarian work. --- Show notes --- For more on Free Humanitarians, visit their website here: freehumanitarians.org Here is a link to a Guardian story that Madi mentions about the European Union spending millions on military-grade tech to deter refugees: bit.ly/3qWqogU At one point in the interview, Sean mentions the SOLAS Convention. If you'd like to know more about that, then go here: bit.ly/3qSfg4w The group Ben (embarrassingly) refers to as The Good Lords were in fact called The Young Lords. Check out this Democracy Now video to find out more about them: bit.ly/330EaH5 Madi mentions the RSA (Refugee Support Aegean) at one point in the interview and the fact that the Greek government denied its registration as a non-profit civil society organisation in December 2021. You can read more about RSA here: rsaegean.org/en, and a joint statement by 19 organisations condemning the Greek government's move, here: bit.ly/3JOCgdk For more on In-Sight Collaborative, visit: in-sightcollaborative.org Follow Free Humanitarians on Twitter: @FrHumanitarians Get in touch: @FleetCivil info@civilfleet.com Support: patreon.com/civilfleet
Episode 15: Calling on the ICC to investigate crimes against humanity in Libya
Dec 18 2021
Episode 15: Calling on the ICC to investigate crimes against humanity in Libya
In November, three prominent human rights groups filed a report to the International Criminal Court (ICC) into possible crimes against humanity being committed on migrants and refugees in Libya. The groups — European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), Lawyers for Justice in Libya, and the International Federation for Human Rights — also warned that the EU’s migration policies have “significantly contributed to this grave situation.” In today's episode, Silvia Rojas-Castro, a legal advisor at the ECCHR, and Elise Flecher, senior programmes officer at Lawyers for Justice in Libya, tell us all about this and why the three organisations are calling on the ICC to act. ---Notes--- For more on The Civil Fleet, visit: civilfleet.com For more about the ECCHR, visit: ecchr.eu/en and find them on Twitter: @ECCHRBerlin Lawyers for Justice in Libya can be found here: libyanjustice.org and on Twitter: @LibyanJustice Read about the International Federation for Human Rights here: fidh.org/en and follow them on Twitter @fidh_en Be sure to read No Way Out: Migrants and Refugees Trapped in Libya Face Crimes Against Humanity, here: bit.ly/3E2Cgm1 You can find a glossary of some terms used in this episode here: bit.ly/3lYbe9D Ben mentions an interview he did with a man trapped in an unofficial detention centre in Libya. You can find that here: bit.ly/3EcSGrL Here's a link to a 2017 BBC report on migrant slave markets in Libya: bbc.in/3p7PSId Read this interview with a Sea-Watch activists on Frontex's collaboration with the Libyan Coastguard, here: bit.ly/3p8xI9k Get in touch: @FleetCivil info@civilfleet.com Support: patreon.com/civilfleet