Psychologists declare: The rejection of refugees at sea has consequences for those seeking help and for rejecting countries – and is a violation of human rights
In June 2018 two ships hired by non-governmental organizations rescued more than 800 refugees from been drowned in the Mediterranean Sea. Although harbours in Italy and in Malta were the closest to land for the refugees, the governments in both states denied landing of the ships and giving shelter to the refugees. Since then, the treatment of refugees in this way has been repeated and seems to have become routine.
According to Prof. Ulrich Wagner from EFPA Board Human Rights and Psychology: As professional psychologists, we declare that the incidents in the Mediterranean Sea will have serious consequences not only for those directly suffering, the refugees. Psychological research shows that violations of the need for bodily integrity have severe consequences for those affected in the form of posttraumatic disease, depression, suicide and heightened level of aggression against others.
The brutal rejection of refugees in distress at sea will also have consequences for the responsible European states and Europe in general. European citizens will ask themselves how to justify such a dramatic violation of human rights and European values.
Psychological research delivers extensive evidence showing that in such situations of threats to fundamental values, human beings tend to blame the suffering people themselves for the hurt and injustice they have experienced. In this way the unbelievable seemingly makes sense. The consequence is that those suffering, in this case the migrant people, are devalued and dehumanised, leading to the revival of racist and extremist ideas.
The rejection of refugees in distress from landing has not only major consequences for those being directly affected, the refugees, and the European states and their political and social climate, we believe it is also a flagrant violation of human rights: Article 3 of the 1948 United Nation’s General Declaration of Human Rights declares the right to life as fundamental for any human being.
Wagner urges: “As professional psychologists, we ask everyone, including those who are politically responsible, to find a way back to a position in accordance with humanity and human rights. This may even promote peace within Europe and to work against increasing conflicts within Europe.”