During recent months, NGOs and human rights defenders involved in search and rescue activities in the Mediterranean, and in providing assistance to migrants arriving in Italian ports, have been made objects of an aggressive media campaign.
The debate started after media, politicians and even prosecutors accused NGOs of collusion with human traffickers, of acting as a pull factor for migrants' boats and of being responsible of the increase in migration flows towards Italy.
These are serious accusations for anyone, but especially for people committed to solidarity. As a consequence of the accusations, the public has started viewing NGOs with suspicion and blaming them for the migration situation.
Consequences of attacking NGOs
Needless to say, this media attack, which later proved absolutely groundless, was meant as a political move in consideration of future elections, a useful tool for attracting votes from those how are not in favor of reception and integration.
Moreover, European institutions followed on the same line, thus transforming NGOs into a sort of scapegoat on which to focus everybody's attention on the widely discussed issue of immigration.
The easiest way to deal with a huge amount of people seeking help and protection in Europe is, both on the Italian and European institutional side, blaming solidarity, to accuse NGOs of "helping too much," of going too close to Libya, and of saving lives because there is a financial incentive for them.
Even though the media debate has now slowly calmed down, NGOs still object to rules they shouldn't have to follow, rules that are far from their declared purpose of safeguarding the organizations themselves.
That is the case of the "code of conduct" for NGOs currently under discussion, which many associations consider a serious impediment to their search and rescue operations.
What does the law actually say?
What can be clearly understood from these facts is what mostly worries NGOs committed to fostering respect for human rights: people are extremely influenced by the media and do not inform themselves of the facts. They do not look for the truth.
In an effort to solve this problem, CILD decided to create an easily accessible tool explaining facts based on nothing but international law: How do search and rescue operations really work? Why are NGOs needed? What laws apply to their work?
These questions need to be answered by valuable, trustworthy sources, laws and international agreements, not with unjustified allegations sensationalized by the media.
To protect solidarity, humanity, and those who are truly committed to helping others, here's Cild's Know Your Rights - Solidarity at Sea, a guide on the actual procedures of search and rescue operations, their origins and motivation.