“European migration policy is both cautious and cowardly, even criminal”

On the occasion of the release this Thursday, November 3 of the collection of unpublished short stories SOS Méditerranée, Writers get involvedinterview with the writer Jean-Marie Laclavetine, project coordinator.

Marie Ndiaye, Wifried N’Sondé, Leila Slimani or Marie Darrieusecq… Seventeen authors are publishing this Thursday, at Folio editions, the collection of unpublished short stories SOS Méditerranée, Writers get involved. A charity book in which everyone, with their own words, expresses themselves on these crossings in often deadly makeshift boats. Interview with Jean-Marie Laclavetine, author several times awarded the Prix Goncourt des lycéens and publisher at Gallimard.

RFI: You and the 17 authors of this book have decided to commit yourselves to the NGO SOS Méditerranée, an organization which intervenes daily to help people trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea. Why ?

Jean-Marie Laclavetine: The idea was to make SOS Méditerranée’s action better known and to do so through the writing of texts by recognized writers who have already made a public commitment to this issue of migration, because it is a subject that seems crucial to me, essential for our democracies. He questions: “To what extent are we prepared to defend our democratic values? “.

Currently, the Mediterranean is becoming a cemetery. We accept this, we European countries, in particular by daily flouting the immemorial rules of maritime law. When a person is in danger at sea, we have a duty to save them and bring them to a safe place. It’s written in all the international conventions and we don’t respect them. We let people die to prevent them from entering our home.

We really need to support this association, SOS Méditerranée, because it not only saves migrants, but it also saves our honor.

In the book, we can read that these stories, ” invite us to change our outlook on the world “. In which way ?

We have to accept that the planet is changing. That people circulate is a right. The planet belongs to everyone and we consider ourselves owners of our small territory. But in reality, we will have to adapt to the enormous changes that are taking place, in particular because of climate change. People will not be able to stay at home in certain countries and we must accept these movements and try to manage them in a humane way.

► To read also: Climate refugee: a status to invent?

Do you think it is important to write about this subject and above all, what can literature bring to this debate?

It is not a question of writing militant texts. Moreover, there is no theoretical text in this collection. There are testimonials, like Leïla Slimani who met a refugee. Others have met SOS Méditerranée rescuers and talk about their action. Still others have written fiction, simply because that’s what writers know how to do, tell stories. And stories know no borders, they circulate. And that’s what literature can do: offer everyone a territory free from egocentric pressures and free from borders.

There are some truly magnificent texts in this collection. That of Marie Ndiaye, for example, is quite extraordinary. It does not tell a militant story; she speaks simply of herself, of her father, and it is of great beauty. And this beauty, writers can share with everyone.

The publication of this book comes at a time when Gérald Darmanin, the French Prime Minister, promises ” the strongest text on immigration presented by a government “. The recent government in the United Kingdom intends to strengthen its migration policy. An anti-immigration far right has come to power in Italy and countries along the Balkan route are closing their borders. How do you view this direction that Europe is taking?

A very worried look because it is clear that populisms and regimes close to the extreme right are settling everywhere to conduct an inhuman policy. For example, the way we use peripheral countries to manage our problem is really shameful. When we know what is happening in Libya, where migrants are subjected to atrocious living conditions, slavery, where rape and torture are daily. We are using this country, Libya among others, to contain this migratory wave which frightens us in a very irrational way. There is an absolute cynicism of the political powers on this question.

Illegal migrants at a detention center in Zawiyah, 45 km west of Tripoli in Libya, June 17, 2017.

I find the current European migration policy both cautious and even cowardly, even criminal. Because thousands of people are dying in the Mediterranean and we know it. Once upon a time there was a wall which was the Berlin Wall and which represented absolute shame. However, this wall, he saw die less than 100 people who tried to cross it. In the Mediterranean, thousands of people are dying [selon l’OIM, depuis 2014, plus de 25 000 personnes sont mortes ou ont disparu en Méditerranée, NDLR]. Women, children… People who have committed no crime, who simply hope to have a better life and who are fleeing poverty. And this policy of the European fortress, future generations will condemn and judge it very, very harshly, as it deserves.

► Also to listen: Immigration: the obsession of politicians in the United Kingdom, Italy, Sweden and the United States