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, on Tuesday declined a medal of honor from the French city of Paris, 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:
Klemp’s rejection of the medal, said writer Marie Myung Ok Lee, was an example of “unshakeable leadership.”
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