This morning, some of the most popular statues in Malta’s capital city were treated to one small but important addition; lifejackets around their necks. The lifejackets all had the same number written on them, 14,500, and a total of 10 were placed around the city.
Jessie Seal, a crew member of the search and rescue ship Iuventa (and a student at the University of Malta) explained how it was all part of an initiative to raise awareness on the plight of immigrants in Malta, specifically those who arrive by boat, risking their lives in the process.
“We want to call on the Maltese government to stop the dying,” Jessie told Lovin Malta. “We cannot continue to build walls and fortresses around Europe. We cannot stop the movement of people by allowing their deaths.”
The number written on each lifejacket refers to the total amount of people who have drowned in the central Mediterranean since 2014. “Why is that we remember the names of 12 European men drowned in Tunis Bay in 1864, but none of the 14,500 people who have drowned in the last three years?” Jessie said.
“I have met boys with bullets in their feet from the Libyan camps. Libya is not a safe place to keep people and I will not allow our governments to do dodgy deals to fund mafias and militias in Northern Africa.”
Jessie posted photos of some of the Valletta statues with lifejackets this morning, writing up a specific caption for each statue for even more context. Under the photo of the statue of Jean De Valette (the namesake of the capital), for example, she said, “We cannot continue the fortress mentality of 1565. Today there are no armies. there are vulnerable people forced to use life-threatening routes.”
The issue of threatening routes was brought up again when Jessie took a photo of the famous statue Queen Victoria in Republic Square, saying, “Why are Nigerians forced to use a perilous route to enter Europe? Why is it so easy for companies like British Petroleum to take oil from the Niger Delta?”
Tomorrow, young people across Europe will join in with an action to force the European Union to allow safe passage for people stuck in horrific conditions along the Libyan coast. “The statues that celebrate our war heroes will be used to remember those dying in our seas,” Jessie concluded. “We can stop this crisis now. We can act. We can welcome people.”