The Civil Fleet

By Niels Bekkema
Niels Bekkema's stories

The Civil Fleet is a news blog and podcast that covers the activist-led refugee rescue and support missions in the Mediterranean and across Europe.

It attempts to uncover how European states have forced refugees back to unsafe countries, abandoned them at sea and the borders, kept them in unsafe detention camps, and mistreated them within their countries.

It also focuses on how governments deliberately hinder and even try to criminalise the activists and civil society organisations that are trying to help refugees.

In each episode of The Civil Fleet Podcast, we will hear from those engaged in the activist-led refugee rescue and support missions, as well as the people on the move themselves.

Our principles:

The Civil Fleet does not merely wish to speak truth to power because, as the dissident academic and activist Noam Chomsky once said, “the powerful typically know the truth quite well.

“They will not benefit from moral lessons and not because they’re bad people… but because they’re playing a certain institutional role and if they don’t play that role, someone else will as long as the institutions persist.”

“The task of a responsible person, anyone who wants to uphold intellectual and moral values, is not to speak to anybody – to the powerful or the powerless – but rather to speak with the powerless and to engage with them to try to learn the truth.”

And that is what The Civil Fleet does because, in the end, the powerless are not so powerless after all.

We promote the perspective of those in harm’s way, without care for the whims of government or corporations — though we will always give them their right to reply.

We are journalists, but we are humans first. And human life and dignity must always be prioritised. No-one, no matter who they are, deserves to drown, to starve at the borders, to languish for years in migrant detention camps, or be pushed back across what are just imaginary lines on a map.

Our goals:

The Civil Fleet‘s aim to expose and raise awareness of what is happening to refugees at Europe’s edges and the activists trying to help them.

As the late, great journalist Robert Fisk once wrote, rarely do journalists “move mountains or bring down regimes; instead, we just chip, chip, chip away at the rock face, hoping that someone notices — so that no one can say ‘we didn’t know’.”

Our ultimate goal, then, is to inspire and help ours readers and listeners to see that they too can take action against this injustice, or that they can at least help those who are already doing so.

We aspire to cover all the activist- and refugee-led rescue and support missions across Europe (or as much as possible) until this crisis is over; until there are safe routes to the continent; until European governments treat refugees humanely; until there are no more borders, or until we live a society where everyone has the right, the ability and the means to live wherever they please.

Opposing Fortress Europe may feel futile at times. However, we take inspiration from the words of US science fiction author Ursula K Le Guin, who once said: “We live in capitalism, its power seems inescapable – but then, so did the divine right of kings.

“Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings.”

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1 March, 2022