The Sea-Watch 3 had not yet entered the port of Lampedusa when the captain Carola Rackete was made a heroine. A heroine, as media and social networks would like it to be: decisive, rebellious, unconventional. A heroine with name and face. An absolute heroine whose act was so radical that she had to divide a country and the whole European public: here the supporters who stood right behind her, there the angry opponents, in between a red line. So it happened that the Rackete case was quickly staged as a battle between the German captain and the Italian interior minister, even between Germany and Italy – wrongly, because the migration question in the Mediterranean is not that simple either.
The emotionality with which the whole history of Sea-Watch 3 has been followed is reflected in the way Carola Rackete was presented by the media: a modern antigone that rebels against the power of the king to follow her moral laws. female David in the fight against Goliath. But did she want to be a heroine? A few days after the creation, in conversation with the Spiegel. Carola Rackete said she was surprised how personal everything had become. “It should be about the matter. In order to share fairly the european Union’s failure to divide up the rescued and to take on this responsibility together. That’s what it should be about, not about individuals like me,” she said. It should be about the future of the migrants and what happens to them after the rescue. It, on the other hand, became the scene of political demonstrations of power.
Horst Seehofer – the Horst Seehofer, who himself was heavily criticized by the captain for failing the offers of German cities that had agreed to accept the rescued of the Sea-Watch 3 – wrote a letter to Matteo Salvini: “We cannot do it ships with rescued people on board drift for weeks in the Mediterranean because they can’t find a port.’ Salvini, who wants to reform Dublin II but does not attend conferences to resolve the refugee issue, replied: “The Federal Government asks me to open Italian ports to the ships? Absolutely not.” He called on “the Merkel government to remove the German flag from the ships that help traffickers and smugglers, and to bring back their citizens who flout Italian laws.” Journalists commented that relations between Italy and Germany have probably reached the lowest point in post-war history.
While Matteo Salvini monopolizes the media’s attention, which he knows how to use in his favour, the whole of Europe is looking away. The countries of Eastern Europe are refusing to accept refugees from the Mediterranean without any consequences; “The northern European countries, including Germany and France, do not abolish their border controls within Schengen in order to be able to reject migrants – and find in Salvini the perfect bogeyman to justify their inaction; the countries of southern Europe claim to be left alone for decades and therefore do not feel responsible.
At the same time, the Mediterranean remains without a European mission. And the ‘Libyan coastguard’, which re-detaines most of the refugees and detains them in the most gruesome conditions in prisons where torture, rape and executions are documented, will continue to be equipped by the European Union, so that the issue of migration finally disappears under the carpet before it even arrives in Europe.
Carola Rackete, whether she like it or not, has become a symbol of solidarity and commitment that gives strength to NGOs. Matteo Salvini, on the other hand, is the representative of a policy that violates human rights. And yet, to blame only the Italian Minister of the Interior when it comes to dying in the Mediterranean is a simple and convenient solution to evade one’s own responsibility, and a sign that migration from North Africa is still a ‘problem’ considered in southern Europe.
Asked by Der Spiegel if she felt sufficiently supported by Germany, Carola Rackete replied in an interview: “I felt left alone. … My impression was that no one at national and international level wanted to help properly.” This, too, and not just the appalling right-wing populism of Matteo Salvini, should be mentioned when one reflects on migration policy. Nobody wants to take care of it.