Sea-Eye vessel awaiting scheduled maintenance works in Spanish shipyard

  • Maltese Army evacuates 78 rescued people
  • Situation in Libya out of control, according to UNHCR
  • Rescued people report traumatic experiences at sea
  • Sea-Eye collects donations for maintenance work

Last Saturday, the tenth crew of the German rescue ship ALAN KURDI saved a total of 78 lives from two unseaworthy boats. Four days later, the Maltese Army evacuated the rescued at sea. On Sunday, the Maltese authorities had still refused to disembark the rescued. Malta had declared that it is neither responsible nor has additional capacity to accommodate those rescued and seeking protection, and that there would be an agreement with other EU member states. Therefore, the ship was instructed to contact the nearest coastal state.

Despite the bad weather and overall dangerous flight conditions, a particularly large number of people are fleeing Libya these days. Aid organizations such as Sea-Eye have saved around 800 people in the past few days. The UNHCR said a week ago that the situation in Libya was “out of control” and that “minimal security standards for refugees” could no longer be guaranteed. The attempt to revive the European naval mission “Sophia” failed due to the governments of Austria and Italy.

Aboard the ALAN KURDI, 78 rescued people from 20 different countries of origin had to wait for a port of safety to be assigned to the ship. Some of the rescued reported spending three days on their journey and crossing the Bouri Oilfield. A cargo ship had crossed their course but simply ignored and avoided them. The rescued from the second boat reported to Sea-Eye’s human rights observer that they were terrified when several sharks circled their boat.

When head of mission Johanna Pohl informed the rescued people on Tuesday evening that they will be picked up by a Maltese military ship to be taken to Malta, many refugees expressed great fear of being brought back to Libya. It was only with great effort that the crew was able to calm the people down and convincingly convey that this is not the reason why Malta is not letting the ALAN KURDI go to port in Malta.

The ALAN KURDI has now set course for the Spanish port of Burriana. There, the 70-year-old rescue ship will be subjected to scheduled maintenance. The last time the ALAN KURDI was in dry dock was in May. Since then, the ship has completed seven other missions. Not a single mission was completed without one or several rescues.

“We will never forget these many, difficult hours. Now we have to collect up to € 120,000 for the maintenance and replacement of two generators. We hope that we can start the eleventh mission mid-March, ” said Gorden Isler – Chairman, Sea-Eye e. V.

The Regensburg sea rescuers will then be able to continue operations for the rest of the year.

Rescue Ship ALAN KURDI Saves 78 Lives

On Saturday morning the German rescue ship ALAN KURDI of the Regensburg NGO Sea-Eye e. V. was informed of an emergency at sea. The organization Watch the Med – Alarmphone received an emergency call from the people on board the inflatable boat and forwarded it to the rescue ship and the responsible authorities.

After several hours the boat was found around 9:00 a.m. At that point, water was already entering the rubber dinghy, the shell of which was made of thin material, similar to truck tarpaulin. There are 8 women and 7 children among the 62 rescued, the youngest child is just six months old.

A short time after the rescue, a ship of the so-called Libyan coast guard was also on site and instructed the ALAN KURDI to leave the Libyan search and rescue zone.

“The so-called Libyan coast guard treats the search and rescue zone like territorial waters, repeatedly harasses civilian rescue workers and issues illegal instructions. They do not posess this authority at all and these militia, supported by the EU, are consciously accepting risking human lives,” says head of mission Johanna Pohl from aboard the ship.

Only a few minutes after the first rescue, ALAN KURDI received a call to render assistance from a cargo ship that had sighted a boat in distress. The ALAN KURDI reached the boat with 16 people on it in the early afternoon and proceeded to evacuate them from the unseaworthy boat. Three of the rescued people were severely dehydrated and had to receive medical treatment on board immediately.

Even though the allocation of a port of safety for rescue ships has improved in recent weeks, it is still too early to speak of a normalization of sea rescue according to international law standards.

“It is a legal obligation to bring people to a safe place as quickly as possible. Even if we see approaches of a distribution mechanism, the protection of people must be the top priority. The EU and all its member states must support Italy in this and act in solidarity in the European sense. The Mediterranean cannot be left unprotected,” says Sea-Eye spokesman Julian Pahlke.

After a long phase with bad weather and high seas, the ALAN KURDI set off on January 17th for the search and rescue area. The ship has been patrolling the central Mediterranean for the past few days. The German-Spanish crew consists of rescue workers from Sea-Eye and the Spanish aid organization Proem Aid.

The Security Of The People In Libya Must Have Top Priority

A few days after Sea-Eye founder Michael Buschheuer was awarded the Georg Elser Prize for special civil courage and civil disorder in Munich for the founding the civil sea rescue organization Sea-Eye, the German government received dictators and warlords in the German capital the following Sunday.

On the occasion of the so-called Libya Summit in Berlin, Sea-Eye is addressing important demands to the Federal Government and the Chancellor.

Europe must find a way to a human rights-based and humanitarian common foreign policy. The federal government must use its influence to promote peace in Libya and to create safe shelters for refugees in Libya who should ideally be under the control of the United Nations instead of Libyan militia officers, traffickers or warlords. Cooperating with an opaque, violent network of Libyan coast guards must be replaced by a European naval operation designed to save as many people as possible from drowning. Civil sea rescue organizations must be supported and promoted in their efforts to save lives. The maritime rescue control centers in Rome and Valletta must return to cooperating with the aid organizations. Working together saved tens of thousands of lives between 2016 and 2018. Families with children and unaccompanied minors must be evacuated from Libya immediately for humanitarian reasons. The best way to combat human trafficking and smugglers is by using humanitarian corridors and safe escape routes.

“How can you, on the one hand, seriously negotiate with warlords about a ceasefire in Libya and at the same time have come to the view that it is okay to systematically prevent people from fleeing and force them back to this country of civil war?” asks Gorden Isler, chairman of Sea-Eye.

Together with other EU member states, the Federal Government supports and finances the so-called Libyan coast guard to intercept people fleeing over the Mediterranean sea and bring them back to the civil war country. Experts on international law speak of an undermining of basic human rights.

“It is precisely through this cycle of uncontrollable camps, intercepting people in the Mediterranean and returning them to these camps that an unbearable mechanism of systematic human rights violations emerged, the political architects of which are located in the governments of Europe,” said Julian Pahlke, spokesman for Sea-Eye.

The rescue ship ALAN KURDI itself was attacked and threatened by an armed Libyan militia during an emergency rescue operation at sea in October 2019. For the so-called Zuwara Maritime Police, this incident had no consequences. A rescued woman told the human rights observer on board ALAN KURDI in November that she had to watch a Somali woman’s newborn baby being fed to a wild dog in a Libyan camp.

“The federal government cannot call the reduced number of asylum applications in Germany and Europe a success, while the people in Libya pay the highest possible price for it. The crimes against the people of Libya go beyond the meaning of the word violence. We expect that the safety of fleeing people has top priority in the talks in Berlin. The federal government is responsible,” continues Isler.

The rescue ship ALAN KURDI left the port of Palermo on Friday afternoon and is on its way to the central Mediterranean. The goal: Saving Lives. Because a lot of people are still trying to flee across the Mediterranean.