On Friday 9 September, our speedboat Speedy was patrolling off the Libyan coast, when suddenly a boat with an armed crew approached them at high speed. Later it turned out to be a boat of the Libyan coast guard.
The Libyans forced our two members Dittmar Kania and Michael Herbke to heave to. The two men were separated from each other and the Speedy was forced to put into the harbour of az-Zawiyya together with the military boat. The last radio signal that we received from the boat originated there.
The Libyan authorities told the local press that the Speedy had entered Libyan territorial waters without permission.
The two Sea-Eye members – both experienced seamen – energetically contradict this statement. They were outside the 12-mile-zone. This has been confirmed by the crews of other European rescue organisations, who could see the incident. Our men were obliged to put to the Libyan coast by force of arms.
The Libyan coast guard later told the media that our two collaborators had admitted to having fallen asleep on board the Speedy. This is not only entirely wrong, but it also contradicts the Libyans’ earlier statement that the Speedy had tried to escape. To escape while sleeping is simply impossible…
It was clearly an illegal seizure of our rescue boat and its crew!
After we learned of the kidnapping of the Speedy, all our efforts were aimed at getting the two men released as soon as possible. We did not comment the reports in the Libyan press as nothing was to endanger the release of our two collaborators. At this point the whereabouts of the boat seemed secondary. The Foreign Office and the German Embassy in Libya (at the moment headquartered in Tunisia) were seeing to the release of the two Sea-Eye members almost around the clock. It is especially thanks to the tireless efforts of the German Ambassador, Dr Christian Buck, that our men were finally released on Monday evening.
Thanks are also due to the German navy, which enabled the tender “Werra” to stand by off the Libyan coast in order to evacuate Dittmar Kania and Michael Herbke. The “Werra” finally took our two men to the parent boat “Sea-Eye.” End of an odyssey!
Our efforts are now directed at a fast return of the Speedy. The loss of this boat is not only a harsh financial set-back (about € 110,000) for Sea-Eye e.V., but it also means a massive restriction of our rescue missions. Ultimately the seizure is harming the refugees, who are being deprived of this urgently needed sea rescue help.