COVID-19 and the racist border policies of European governments

Tim Bredtmann

Seebrücke, literally “sea bridge,” is an international movement in support of freedom of movement, safe routes for refugees, and decriminialization of rescues at sea. Seebrücke was founded in 2018 because the rescue vessel Lifeline, which had 234 people on board, was denied safe harbor in Europe. Various European Union countries have repeatedly trampled existing laws on human rights. Since then, hundreds of local Seebrücke groups have sprung up, and over 200 cities and towns have become safe harbors. That means these places are willing to take people in. The German interior minister refuses to do that to this day.

The sheer contempt for human life displayed by the German federal government – consisting of both the CDU and SPD – in its treatment of refugees has been clear for years. The worst so far was the Moria disaster. Moria was more than just an overcrowded camp on the Greek island of Lesbos – it was a central element of the EU’s brutal border policies. The fire in September 2020 was foreseeable. The suffering of the people who fled the disaster is unbearable.

Activists, experts, and journalists warned repeatedly that there would be a disaster if people were not evacuated right away. The camp was overcrowded, with little to no medical care and only the most rudimentary ways to keep clean and maintain distance from others. At the same time, the coronavirus was spreading, posing an especially high risk to people with weakened bodies.

On the day of the fire and for a week afterward, hundreds of thousands took to the streets in protest, observing social distancing and safety rules and wearing masks. Their demand? That all the camps be evacuated. They knew that COVID-19 was only making existing circumstances more obvious. The EU’s inhuman border policy is only a reflection of what the Member States want. But instead of evacuation, now we have Moria 2.0. The camp is sinking into the mud. Tents have been flooded by rain, and nowhere is safe.

The German government is the one driving the decisions, and time and again, it has actively chosen to continue these inhumane conditions. Evacuation has always been possible. There are over 200 cities and towns ready and waiting to take people in.

Photo: personal

Tim Bredtmann is a political scientist, political educator fighting right-wing extremism, and activist in the area of rescues at sea. He studied political science at the University of Rostock, where he also worked at the Chair for International Politics.