Common Dreams - August 22, 2019
German boat captain Pia Klemp, whose work to rescue refugees in the Mediterranean Sea has earned her praise from around the world and criminal prosecution in Italy, declined a medal of honor from the French city of Paris TK, saying that the award was "hypocrite honorings" from a city government that treats its least fortunate in the same way that migrants are treated by European authorities.
"We do not need medals," Klemp wrote in a public Facebook post. "We do not need authorities deciding about who is a 'hero' and who is 'illegal.' In fact they are in no position to make this call, because we are all equal."
Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo announced the award of the Grand Vermeil Medal for bravery to Klemp in July.
In her post rejecting the award, Klemp drew a direct line between Hidalgo's policies and the treatment of refugees and migrants:
Madame Hidalgo, you want to award me a medal for my solidarian action in the Mediterranean Sea, because our crews 'work to rescue migrants from difficult conditions on a daily basis'. At the same time your police is stealing blankets from people that you force to live on the streets, while you raid protests and criminalize people that are standing up for rights of migrants and asylum seekers. You want to give me a medal for actions that you fight in your own ramparts. I am sure you won't be surprised that I decline the Medaille Grand Vermeil.