At the end of 2019, we look back and see many individual fates that we were fortunately able to help. We would like to introduce four of these people to you and show you what your help can do.

Mission of 2nd Christmas Eve comes to a good end

  • ALAN KURDI docks in Pozzallo
  • 32 rescued persons can go ashore
  • Malta refused to evacuate weakened women and children
  • Guiseppe Conte announced a revision of the strict security policy

The German rescue ship ALAN KURDI docked in the port of Pozzallo on Sunday morning. The 32 survivors sent an emergency call to the aid organization AlarmPhone on Christmas Eve. The Libyan authorities and the civil rescue ships ALAN KURDI and OCEAN VIKING were informed immediately. During the night from Thursday to Friday, the crew of the Regensburg organization found a total of 32 people in a crowded plastic boat. All survivors stated that they were Libyan citizens.

Already on Saturday evening, the head of mission of the ALAN KURDI rescue ship was informed about the assignment of a port of safety by the Italian MRCC. The ship had only been present in the Italian search and rescue zone for a few hours. Earlier on Saturday, the ship had requested an emergency evacuation of ten of the people aboard from the authorities at the Maltese MRCC. Two women and several children had consumed no food or water due to seasickness and stress and were therefore dehydrated. The Maltese rescue control center declined to evacuate.

“We are really relieved that the rescued people no longer had to wait on board our ship. We were increasingly concerned about the medical condition of some people and the upcoming storm,“ said chairman Gorden Isler.

The human rights observer on board the ALAN KURDI interviewed some survivors. One man reported that was to be conscripted for mandatory military service in the Libyan civil war and fled because he did not want to kill people. He and his partner further stated that they considered the crossing the Mediterranean as a last resort. Sea-Eye is still evaluating the interviews.

On Saturday the Italian President Guiseppe Conte stated that he wants to revise Salvini’s security policy. Under the former Minister of the Interior, Matteo Salvini, draconian sanctions against rescue workers and rescue vessels were introduced.

Julian Pahlke, spokesman for Sea-Eye on the political developments in Italy: “Salvini’s policy of closed ports must end immediately. The so-called security packages have not only fueled the xenophobic climate, they also contradict international law and fundamental human rights. The President’s announcement must now be followed up with action. We have to find a humanitarian view of this crisis at our shared external borders. At the same time, however, all EU member states must support the Mediterranean countries and agree on a joint distribution of all the people saved.“

On the second Christmas evening, the crew of the rescue vessel ALAN KURDI received an emergency call. The German flagged rescue ship had only reached the Libyan search and rescue zone a few hours earlier. Not a minute too soon, because a storm is coming.

We have long considered whether we should publish these reports. After thoughtful consideration, we decided that these stories should be heard. In order to protect the interviewees, their faces were blurred.

Warning: The content includes reports of massive violence and violence against children

Our human rights watcher interviewed two survivors who were rescued from a rubber dinghy by the ALAN KURDI in November 2019.

In the video, the rescued person describes horrific scenes that she observed during her time in a Libyan detention camp. She describes how a Libyan grabs a newborn alive from a woman and throws it to an “angry dog”. Another rescued describe experiences of incredible brutal violence. A young man reports that he had to call his family to ask them to transfer money and was beaten until he wailed in pain.

We decided to publish these reports because the situation in Libyan camps is part of the reality of European border security. The reports of slave trade, severe torture, ill-treatment, sexual violence, but also undersupply, completely inadequate medical care and inhumane unsanitary conditions have so far not led to a reversal of European migration policy.

The governments of the EU member states are guilty themselves and make us guilts during these years. Because it is our time. It is our brothers, sisters and their children who are tortured, raped and murdered in Libya. The fact that deep abysses are torn open is consciously accepted.

We therefore call on the Federal Government of Germany and the European Union and all of its member states again to:

  • end the inhumane policy of returning those rescued at sea back to Libya
  • return to a human rights-oriented, humanitarian policy

Particularly vulnerable people, e.g. families, pregnant women and children must be evacuated and not handed over to criminals.

A doctor aboard ALAN KURDI, Barbara H., reports on her rescue mission in November 2019. She now has a special Christmas story to tell of how she met a baby girl at high seas.

I suddenly came to take part in the November mission of the ALAN KURDI. On November 7th, Nicole Grimske, a board member of Sea-Eye, called me. She asked if I would be willing to participate in the next mission because a medical professional was still needed. After consulting my husband, I flew to Bari (Italy) a day later and found myself in Taranto in the afternoon, where ALAN KURDI was docked at the local port.

Unfortunately our departure was delayed because a heavy storm swept across Italy and caused damage to our ship in the port. On November 21st we finally left the port of Taranto and reached the search and rescue zone off Libya four days later. At that time, the ALAN KURDI was the only rescue ship on site.

In the late morning of November 28th we had our first SAR case, in which we were able to rescue 44 people from an unseaworthy inflatable boat. Among them were 21 women, a toddler only 15 months old, one four and one eight week old newborn baby. In the early evening of the same day we found another inflatable boat with another 40 people.

Barbara aboard ALAN KURDI
Barbara aboard ALAN KURDI

Encountering the eight-week-old girl, little Fatima, touched me very much. When I first got to hold her, I noticed how her skin was irritated by the salty sea water, her tiny, wrinkly legs and arms. She was significantly weaker than the four-week old baby. Her mother informed me that she had been refusing to eat for two days. In the evening, Malta declined to evacuate the girl despite her poor health condition.

So I spent a few hours with the girl the following night. She did not accept the baby milk that I offered her in drops. She didn’t cry and she didn’t sleep. Every now and then she whimpered softly and looked at me with her big, dark and clever eyes as if she had all the knowledge of the world in her. She fell asleep in the morning and I was able to hand her over to the Italian coast guard – she was calm but her skin all ashen. The second newborn, the toddler, the parents and another person who was in poor general condition were evacuated with her.

The following days were characterized by breakdowns and panic attacks by our guests. The spit bags were soon used up and the infusion drips became scarce, even though the on-board hospital was well stocked. Malta either did not respond to our requests for assistance or refused to evacuate. On November 30th, the MRCCs (Maritime Rescue Coordination Centers) in Rome, Malta and Bremen all only referred to each other with regard to responsibility for our distress at sea.

During the early morning hours of December 1st I saw our guests lying on deck, wrapped in blankets in this cold season. Then I got the impression that we are being hidden from Europe. I remembered the search for harborage described in the Bible. Advent songs also came to my mind: “A ship is coming fully loaded (…), it carries an expensive freight” or “Open the door, the gates open wide”. Where were the wide gates?

But when our predominantly young crew members bustled on board to prepare breakfast for our guests, when I heard Adrian address a female guest as “Sister”, when Philipp, the paramedic diagnosed “a broken heart” among one of the men whose body was visibly beaten and whose face indicated a broken soul, all inflicted by the hell that is Libya, or when our guests called me “mom” –  those were the moments I knew I was in the right place at the right time.

The entire crew gave people back their dignity during their days on board the ALAN KURDI. I hope that you will continue to experience dignity and that you will also receive bread in Europe. It took five days after being rescued for these people to be admitted to the port of Messina.

And as for little Fatima – her eyes are still haunting me. I’m happy that, unlike the little Alan after whom our lifeboat is named, we were able to save her life. This year I found the child in the crib early: on November 28th.

ALAN KURDI in the Mediterranean

Catholic Church in Paderborn finances Sea-Eye’s Christmas Mission

  •     Mayor of Palermo says goodbye to ALAN KURDI crew
  •     Tailwind for Regensburg sea rescuers from the Archdiocese of Paderborn
  •     Support from the city of Constance
  •     Sea-Eye establishes sea rescue base in Palermo

The German rescue ship ALAN KURDI left the port of Palermo on Friday evening. Mayor Leoluca Orlando came by in person to wish the crew a successful mission and a safe return. Previously, he had received the crew in Palermo City Hall and given the flag of Palermo to Captain Uwe Doll.

The Regensburg sea rescuers get support from the Archdiocese of Paderborn. Since donations became scarce in October, one mission had to be canceled already. Vicar General Alfons Hardt contacted Sea-Eye and secured immediate support from the Archdiocese to ensure that the ALAN KURDI can continue its mission at the turn of the year.

“The support from Paderborn was not a day early. Fleeing across the Mediterranean sea is particularly dangerous at this time of year. We are infinitely grateful to Archbishop Hans-Josef Becker, who repeatedly makes it clear that it is our human duty to save the lives of those seeking protection,” said Gorden Isler, Chairman of Sea-Eye.

The call for help in October was also followed by members of the city of Constance. Sea-Eye received an emergency contribution of over € 5,000. In addition to Hamburg, Constance is the second German city to support Sea-Eye financially and to follow up the commitment of becoming a safe harbor with further, concrete measures.

Palermo is to become the new sea rescue base for ALAN KURDI. From now on, the ship is to start rescue operations from Palermo.

“After the crash landing of Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, the Italian ports are open again,” said Julian Pahlke, spokesman for Sea-Eye.

Previously, the ALAN KURDI had to start from Spain. The shorter journey from Palermo allows for longer periods of search and rescue activities with the ALAN KURDI in the Libyan search and rescue zone as well as lower operational costs.

“We like being in Palermo. The mayor and the people there welcomed us with open arms. So we want to build our new base there,” Pahlke continues.