In early September the Libyan coast guard arrested two crew members of the private refugee aid organisation Sea-Eye. Dittmar Kania was one of them. He tells of confusions, machine guns and nights on mattresses on the floor.
By Sebastian Girg.
The Sea-Eye has been cruising the Mediterranean since spring in order to rescue refugees in distress. The Regensburg rescue mission reports to have saved the lives of more than 4,000 people during their operations so far.
Dittmar Kania and Michael Herbke are part of the Sea-Eye crew. In early September they were driving Sea-Eye’s speedboat “Speedy” from the Tunisian town of Zarzis towards the Libyan coast, when they discovered two ships that were not moving. When they saw that the ships were tankers, they turned around and moved back North. At this point they realised that they were being followed. “Just earlier we had said that pirates seemed to be causing trouble in the area. And then I saw a speedboat approaching us at high speed. At first we were racing against each other,” he said.
The other boat was faster and caught up with them. Kania and Herbke saw that the men on board were holding up machine guns. “When we saw that they were wearing uniforms, it was clear that they had to be the coast guard and we surrendered,” Kania said.
The Sea-Eye members were taken ashore and into custody. Kania reported that he and his collaborator were questioned for six hours. They did not have to spend the night in a prison cell, but were taken to the house of the coast guard commander. “For me this was the most bizarre situation. We arrived at the commander’s house. It had about 1,000 square metres, with stables and a paddock. We were provided with good food and had to sleep on mattresses on the floor in the same room with the commander.”
Also thanks to the efforts of the German Ambassador in Libya, the Sea-Eye members were released quickly. They were treated well their time in custody, Kania said.
However, the speedboat “Speedy” remains in Libya. It is unclear when the organisation will get it back. “Someone said that it could be three weeks, but I don’t believe that,” Kania said. Allegedly a Libyan court will have to decide on the return of the boat.
In spite of the arrest and the interrogation: Dittmar Kania wants to continue working for Sea-Eye. “I will certainly continue. This was an isolated incident. I am even sure now that the Sea-Eye has nothing to fear anymore from the coast guard. They know now that we are harmless and have no intention to enter Libya.”
Source: BR 24, Germany