Martin Kolek is from Germany. He is 49 years old. He volunteers to work for an organisation called Sea-Watch: they patrol the Mediterranean Sea and pick up migrants attempting to reach Europe in unsafe, crowded boats.
Martin: I am a music therapist and Germany is a long way from the Libyan coastline. But I am here. I have taken holiday from my work. I’m in the area I’ve imagined for more than a year, where thousands of people attempt to cross the Mediterranean Sea and where thousands of people die. That’s unthinkable. That cannot be. I know I have to be here. To save lives.
Italian Politician: (Steps forward and shakes fist.) Migrants are not welcome in Italy. You will not be allowed to dock your boats; the migrants will not be allowed to disembark. You must return them to Libya.
Lawyer (working with Sea-Watch): (Arms open.)Forcibly taking rescued people back to a war-torn country, having them imprisoned and tortured, is a crime that we will never commit.
Martin on Sea-Watch boat. The politician shakes his head and obstructs. The lawyer supports. He pulls migrants in from the sea and they sit, cross legged, behind him. They look up at Martin.
Martin: (Tired and breathing heavily) It is the same every day. Nearly one hundred people, on average, every single day. Midnight to Midday. Monday to Sunday, January to December. It never stops so how can we stop? If we do, the Mediterranean will become a sea of blood. Watch the corpses wash up on the beaches whilst tourists sip cocktails under the cold stars.
Migrant: I am a doctor. I can contribute to society.
Migrant: I am a teacher. I can contribute to society.
Migrant: I am an engineer. I can contribute to society.
Migrants: We are people. We are people. We are people.
Martin: Then I think about some of the people that are already European citizens: dealing drugs, committing frauds, abusing children. I listen to them: ‘Foreigners coming here and stealing our jobs!’ What? Drug dealer. Fraudster. Paedophile. It’s absurd.
Boat Captain: Martin, we go again. Reports of a vessel capsized: people in the water.
Martin: It’s freezing in the sea. We need to get to them quickly.
Martin pulls in more migrants from the sea. Again, the lawyer and the politician are involved. The migrants are shivering and afraid. They sit cross legged and look up at Martin as he works. Another migrant is pulled in and they grab onto Martin.
Migrant: My child. My baby. (They collapse.)
The migrants stand and circle Martin slowly as he scans the sea. He moves desperately between them, straining to see. Then everything stops. The migrants freeze. Martin kneels down and scoops something from the water. The politician turns away. The lawyer stands with Martin.
Martin: Like a doll, arms outstretched.
Lawyer (working with Sea-Watch): Libya is not a safe country. It’s for this reason that Sea Watch maintains that rescue at sea must be protected and defended.
Italian Politician: I’m ashamed of those who allow the first thug from abroad to arrive in this country and disobey the laws and put the lives of the military at risk.
Martin: I took hold of the forearm of the baby and pulled the light body protectively into my arms at once, as if it were still alive … It held out its arms with tiny fingers into the air, the sun shone into its bright, friendly but motionless eyes.
I began to sing to comfort myself and to give some kind of expression to this incomprehensible, heart-rending moment. Just six hours ago this child was alive.
We picked up one hundred and thirty five survivors from the ocean when this boat sank. Forty five more people died. A photograph of me with the child’s body was published by Sea Watch to highlight the scale of the tragedy.
Italian Politician: As long as I live, it is my duty to defend the borders, the dignity and the sovereignty of my country.
Lawyer (working with Sea Watch): These conditions are intolerable. The lives of people are reduced to a fine: a fine that actually goes to punish what is a moral and legal duty and a human act of solidarity.
Martin: If we do not want to see such pictures, we have to stop producing them. (He puts the body down and leaves the stage.)
Many of the words attributed to the Italian Politician are taken directly from the statements of the politician, Mateo Calvini. Many of the words attributed to the Lawyer (working with Sea Watch) are taken directly from the statements of Giorgia Linardi.