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PRESS REVIEW | 28 June 2021

Conference From the Sea to the City in Palermo, 25-26 June, 2021

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PRESS RELEASE | 10 June 2021

 “From the Sea to the City – A Conference of Cities for a Welcoming Europe” 25-26 June, 2021

From the Sea to the City is the name of the Consortium, created in June 2020 on the occasion of World Refugee Day, a network of organisations, all from civil society, which for years have been working on the front line and fighting for the rights of migrants as persons, as human beings. From the Sea to the City is also the name of the project that the Consortium is bringing to Palermo on 25 and 26 June.

European Alternatives, Mediterranea Saving Humans, Europe Must Act, Sea-Watch, Seebrücke, Emergency, Open Arms, Humboldt-Viadrina Governance Platform, Alarmphone, Tesserae,, Inura, Tesserae, all strongly together for an extraordinary event: a big conference, many Mayors and many cities involved. There is only one watchword: get serious. And so ready to respond to this invitation is the city of Palermo, which together with the city of Potsdam has always demonstrated its willingness to support the rights of migrants and refugees. 

Asked why Palermo is hosting the conference, Mayor Leoluca Orlando said: „I could give several reasons for replying to this question. But there is one that sums them all up: Palermo is the capital of human rights in a vision of fraternity, a mosaic of cultures whose framework is respect for the human dimension. A respect that begins with the defence of the value of life, the most important value. Unfortunately, this value is trampled underfoot by the deaths at sea, by the indifference of a Europe that can no longer look the other way. That is why on 9 May, European Union Day, I proposed to the President of the EU Parliament, David Sassoli, and to the President of the EU Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, the creation of Rescue European Civil Service (RECS), a European Civil Service for the protection and rescue of lives at sea. It also calls for private vessels with EU-funded personnel, with the involvement of volunteers and host cities. This proposal, which has already received a positive response from President Sassoli, will be relaunched at this international conference together with European municipalities and civil society organisations whose aim is to establish a network of solidarity with those who save lives at sea. Migrants cannot be considered invisible. A process that has been going on in Palermo for years. Palermo, an open and welcoming city, puts people at the centre, their rights, their identity, which is not linked to the law of blood but to the freedom of being able to choose who to be. A vision of present and future put down in black and white in 2015 with the Palermo Charter, which recognises international mobility as an inalienable right and proposes the abolition of the residence permit, which seems to have become the new slavery and the new death penalty of the 21st century. This is why Palermo is hosting this conference: to say “no more” to deaths at sea, to defend the right to life and to build a structural dimension of the future based on mobility that forces us to change our vision of the world. To date, the cities that have joined the process are Valencia, Barcelona, Paris, Munich, Dusseldorf, Flensburg, Bergamo, Bari, Lampedusa and, of course, Potsdam, which together with the city of Palermo is the host of this important meeting.”

Potsdam Mayor Mike Schubert continues: „Where states fail, cities create solutions. Potsdam is a safe haven for people fleeing war and discrimination. For more than two years we have been coordinating the Alliance Städt Sicherer Häfen; already 100 cities have declared themselves a safe haven. We fight for humanitarian values and the human right to seek asylum. Our leadership is moral pragmatism, seeking solutions and finding them in a growing network of cities. That is why we are in Palermo on 25 and 26 June, for a just Europe where human rights are respected“. For years Potsdam has been leading the coordination of cities in a human rights-based national and European migration and asylum policy. On 14 June, the 100th member of Städte Sicherer Häfen joined the alliance just in time for its biennial anniversary in 2019 when it initially comprised only 13 cities. Recently the alliance includes 100 cities, communities and counties.  As of 2019, memberships are increasing to facilitate a simple and unbureaucratic way of hosting those rescued in the Mediterranean Sea. Based on the Potsdam Declaration, a large number of Städte Sicherer Häfen have come together to set a common example of how to end the humanitarian catastrophe in the Mediterranean Sea and beyond. Last year, the crew of the civilian ship Iuventa received the Max Dortu-Award based in Potsdam. In February 2020, Mayor Mike Schubert led a delegation consisting of representatives from the state, the church and the NGO Seebruecke to visit the Moria refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos. This visit refocused the media and the public in Germany on the refugee situation. After the fire in September 2020 that almost completely destroyed the camp, Mike Schubert reinforced his commitment to create a European Alliance, expressed in the joint declaration of the two cities Palermo and Potsdam.

In a historical moment where once again there is no common European response, this initiative wants to re-imagine the European position on migration policies by putting universal human rights at the centre and cities as the main actors of a necessary change. While the EU and national governments continue to focus on deterrence at all costs, more and more cities across Europe declare their readiness to receive and host more refugees. With this vision and in collaboration with all European cities willing to take up the invitation and sign a document that will be the subject and protagonist of the days in Palermo, (Voluntary direct reception of municipalities and direct funding from the EU for host municipalities some of the points of the document) the Consortium from the Sea to the City wants to send a strong and clear signal to the European Institutions and the new upcoming European Presidency: to pursue a policy of reception of refugees and migration based on the principles of solidarity, right of asylum, respect for human rights.

A concrete response that goes beyond words is the goal that we want to achieve with this conference, the creation of a large network for a great Alliance between all the Mayors of those cities that cannot and do not want to turn away. With them also that part of civil society that has always been in the field for a common work where reception, respect for humanitarian obligations and human rights are always and in any case in first place. This Alliance is committed to working together until 2022, when the second edition of the Conference will be held.

We will start from those municipalities that in recent years, despite everything, have continued to be in the front line and alone in taking responsibility for the migration crisis, which due to the climate crisis will see increasing numbers in the coming decades.  The Palermo days that host the conference will also see many guests ready to work on the above-mentioned themes, among them the Archbishop of Palermo, Monsignor Corrado Lorefice, the President of the Council of the German Protestant Church, Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, the German politicians Gesine Schwan, SPD, and Erik Marquardt, member of the European Parliament of the Group of the Greens/EFA, the representative of UNHCR in Italy, Chiara Cardoletto. 

An important note: the Consortium was born from the voluntary initiative of some of these organisations right in the city of Palermo just before 11 June 2018, the date on which the Italian government closed its ports to the Aquarius boat, which at the time had on board 600 migrants rescued at sea in those very days.