SEEBRÜCKE, Safe Harbours and Municipal Reception: An Overview

In contrast to the European isolation policy and the blockade of the EU states, numerous civil, state and local political actors throughout Europe are campaigning for the reception of people rescued from sea distress. It is precisely the local authorities that show their solidarity and responsibility. More and more of them are declaring themselves Safe Harbours for refugees.

1. Seebrücke

As a civil movement we stand for solidarity with people on the run and freedom of movement. In more than 100 cities and communities, SEEBRÜCKE groups are campaigning to ensure that their communities become Safe Harbours. This means, among other things, that the city receives people rescued from distress at sea in addition to the existing quota, joins a city alliance of Safe Harbours and/or assumes sponsorship of a sea rescue organisation. All SEEBRÜCKE demands on safe harbours can be found here.

2. Safe Harbours

Since autumn 2018, more than 62 municipalities in Germany have declared themselves Safe Harbours – and new ones are constantly being added (status: 27.06.19). Even if the respective declarations go to different levels, the Council decisions show that cities, municipalities and rural districts are committed to prevent the deaths in the Mediterranean and the criminalisation of sea rescue workers. The list of all safe harbours in Germany and details on the individual cities can be found here. 

3. Alliance “Cities of Safe Harbours”

13 of the Safe Harbours have now gone a step further and founded a municipal alliance “Cities of Safe Harbours”. The alliance was formed on 13-14 June 2019 at the SEEBRÜCKE congress “Safe Harbours. Cast off for municipal admission”.

The Alliance has jointly signed the Potsdam Declaration by which the municipalities declare their willingness to “take in those rescued from sea distress”. They call on “the Federal Government and the Federal Minister of the Interior to promise as quickly as possible that we municipalities and communities ready to receive the refugees rescued from sea distress in the Mediterranean can also receive them”. (See also: Press Release of the City of Potsdam of 14 June 2019).

This alliance includes 13 cities: Berlin, Detmold, Flensburg, Freiburg, Greifswald, Heidelberg, Hildesheim, Kiel, Krefeld, Marburg, Potsdam, Rostock, Rottenburg am Neckar (27.06.19). Other cities are preparing to join the alliance. The coordination of the alliance lies provisionally with the city of Potsdam.
The Safe Harbours of Schleswig Holstein have already formed an alliance before.

4. Open letters from the muncipalities

Since summer 2018, numerous municipalities – mostly in open letters – have contacted the Federal Government and called for more commitment in sea rescue and offered to take in rescued persons. The letters of 26 July 2018 from the Rhine cities of Cologne, Düsseldorf and Bonn and the joint declaration of 26 September 2018 from the city states of Berlin, Hamburg and Bremen are particularly well known. At the Seebrücke-Kongress in June 2019, the Lord Mayor of Rottenburg, Stephan Neher, promised to accept the rescued persons from Sea-Watch 3. Berlin and Kiel have joined in. In an open letter to Interior Minister Seehofer, 15 cities demanded the immediate reception of the people.

Not all cities that have approached the federal government in this way have already joined the “Cities of Safe Harbours” alliance.