In the port of Olbia

Italian authorities seemed unprepared

The ALAN KURDI reached the port of Olbia in Sardinia on Friday morning (25.09.20). It was to last until Saturday noon at 13:15 until all rescued people were allowed to leave the rescue ship. The process of registering the people and undergoing a health check took considerably longer than usual.

Yesterday, our guests had to wait on deck of the ALAN KURDI for many hours in the cold, wind, and rain. 61 people even had to spend another night on board, as the Italian authorities suspended the registration process yesterday at about 20:30 and only started it again on Saturday morning.

Rescued with blanket

We can only guess why it took so long. But it seems that the Italian authorities were simply overwhelmed. This was not a friendly welcome for our guests, who had to wait freezing in blankets in the rain, but they endured it with great patience,“ says Kai, human rights observer on board the ALAN KURDI.

Preparations in Olbia

The crew has now also been tested for Covid-19. The results are still pending. The Italian authorities had already announced yesterday that the crew of the ALAN KURDI will undergo a 14-day quarantine in Olbia. The captain’s request to head for the port of call Marseille was rejected.

We have not received any support from any EU state in our work during this mission. But we are glad that we were able to move 133 people to a safe place. We wish these people all the best,“ said Gorden Isler, Chairman of Sea-Eye at the end of the mission.

Meanwhile, the crew is preparing the rescue ship for the next mission.

Guests aboard the ALAN KURDI

People freeze the whole day in cold and rain

As previously announced, the ALAN KURDI was allowed to enter the port of Olbia on Friday morning. But the Italian authorities refused to allow all of the rescued persons to disembark. All day long, the survivors kept waiting aboard ALAN KURDI, wrapped in blankets and freezing, while it was raining heavily and a cold wind was blowing over the harbor.

Freezing rescued persons with blankets in the rain

After the captain had insisted on a disembarkation for several hours, the authorities finally stated that the 125 rescued people could leave the ALAN KURDI and the first of them could disembark. At around 8:30 p.m., the Italian authorities stopped this process, although around half of the refugees were still on board the ship. The remaining people are supposed to stay on deck of the ALAN KURDI, sleeping outside in the cold and wind, until tomorrow morning.

Child with life belt

Italy shows its ugliest side here. On this ship, people who have fled a civil war country are waiting to be offered a warm place to sleep. Is that asking too much?, asks Gorden Isler, Chairman of Sea-Eye e. V.

The rescued people have been enduring this ordeal with great patience all day.

It has already been announced to the crew of the ALAN KURDI, that they must undergo a 14-day quarantine, as was previously mandated for other rescue ships. The captain’s request to be allowed to continue sailing to Marseille after disembarkation was declined.

Captain of ALAN KURDI
Joachim Ebeling, Captain of ALAN KURDI
Man with blanket

The French government appealed to Italy

ALAN KURDI anchors off Sardinia
Following the announcement by Sea-Eye on Tuesday morning that the ALAN KURDI will call at its Port of Call Marseille, the German rescue vessel has now been allocated an Italian port in Sardinia after all. Whether Arbatax can become the port of disembarkation for 125 rescued persons remains unclear, however. So far the ALAN KURDI is only allowed to anchor off Sardinia to seek protection from a storm.

The Italian maritime rescue coordination centre had previously refused to coordinate the operation. Meanwhile, the German Ministry of Transport made no visible effort to ask its Italian colleagues for coordination.

The German and Italian authorities now have to explain why they silently ducked away from responsibility for four whole days,” says Gorden Isler, chairman of Sea-Eye e. V.

The French government pressed for a solution on Wednesday evening and successfully appealed to the Italian government to respect humanitarian principles in the case of ALAN KURDI. On Wednesday midnight, the Italian rescue coordination centre contacted the captain of the ALAN KURDI to discuss “further coordination”. They suggested a port in Sardinia to the captain in order to find shelter from the weather for the time being.

Rescued family on ALAN KURDI

Of course we follow this suggestion. After all, we have been asking for the coordination of our case for five days,” Isler continues.

Situation on board the ALAN KURDI
In the meantime, the ALAN KURDI has reached the port of Arbatax and was instructed by the harbour master’s office to anchor there for the time being and to wait for further instructions. The situation on board the ALAN KURDI is described by human rights observer Kai Echelmeyer as stable. Even though some people need to be treated for seasickness, there are no serious problems or conflicts on board.

However, we still have more than 50 minors on board, including many unaccompanied and also small children,” says Echelmeyer.

Children playing on the ALAN KURDI

However, Sea-Eye’s repeated requests to disembark the particularly vulnerable persons immediately also remain unanswered.

EU Commission calls for coordination and rapid disembarkation in the Migration Pact
On Wednesday, the EU Commission presented its migration pact.

Search and rescue operations in emergency situations require coordination and rapid disembarkation to a safe place and respect for the fundamental rights of the persons rescued, in accordance with the obligations of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, including the principle of non-refoulement, and with customary and conventional international human rights law and the Law of the Sea,” says point 7 of the paper presented by the Commission.

Commissioner Ylva Johannson underlined the particular importance of civil sea rescue efforts and of supporting them.

But this is precisely what is not happening at present in the Central Mediterranean. The Commission is calling for legal norms that should be self-evident and should already be complied with,” said Isler.

The fact that Italy completely rejects the responsibility for a maritime emergency is a novelty for Sea-Eye.

It suggests that Italy no longer even classifies people rescued from distress as maritime emergencies,” says Isler.

In a conversation between the Italian coast guard and Sea-Eye representatives last June, an Italian coast guard lawyer spoke of a “service for migrants at sea” when describing the purpose of ALAN KURDI from the Italian coast guard’s point of view.

This shows that the Italian view has changed not only on the rescue vessels of the humanitarian organisations, but especially on the rescued people. If you think this through to the end, you come to the frightening conclusion that the coast guard has taken over the view of right-wing populist politicians and is now using the term ‘passengers’ in order to be able to detain the ships for technical reasons,” Isler continues.

ALAN KURDI in the Mediterranean

No Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre Assumes Responsibility

After the rescue of 133 people last Saturday (9/19/2020), no European maritime rescue coordination centre took over the coordinating role for the people rescued by the ALAN KURDI till Tuesday evening. Malta’s rescue coordination centre flat-out refused. The Italian rescue coordination centre referred to the German control centre in Bremen and from there the requests were forwarded to the German Ministry of Transport and the German Foreign Office.

On Tuesday morning, the Italian coast guard evacuated two women, one man, five children, the youngest child being only five months old. The communication for this evacuation took place exclusively verbally, via radio. Jan Ribbeck, head of operations and board member of Sea-Eye, criticizes the actions of the Italian and German authorities. On Tuesday evening, he wrote to the rescue coordination centre in Rome:

Evacuation at night

The responsible JRCC in the Libyan SAR zone has not made contact with the vessel ALAN KURDI via email, VHF or telephone before or after the rescue. All the other authorities closest to the SAR zone have so far not agreed on a jurisdiction or responsibility despite repeated attempts and objections. The common duty to coordinate emergencies at sea does not end in silence and inactivity of the authorities. It continues to apply until the operation is completed with the transfer of the rescued people to a safe port. Due to the inactivity of the Italian and German authorities the master must now consequently head for our port of call for the fastest possible and safe supply and evacuation of the rescued people. But in order to avoid a long and stressfull crossing, we must request for an immediate disembarkation for all of rescued people within the next hours.

Rescue ship ALAN KURDI sets course for France

If the rescue coordination centre in Tripoli is incapacitated and cannot assume its responsibility, all other European maritime rescue coordination centres are responsible and obliged to cooperate, because after all, human lives are at stake,“ says Gorden Isler, Chairman of Sea-Eye.

On Tuesday evening, the civil sea rescue organization informed the maritime rescue coordination centres of Italy, Malta, Germany and France, as well as the German Foreign Office, of their intentions and repeated their request for a safe port. However, none of them replied.

Therefore, the ALAN KURDI set course for her port of call, its original port of destination, where the ship was scheduled to dock in order to carry out the crew change and prepare for its next mission. The French port of Marseille was also chosen because the organization’s volunteers can travel there more easily from Germany and it has already served as a suitable base for the rescue ship OCEAN VIKING.

Rescued and crew member

Of course, the port of call can also be a place of safety. The inaction of the Italian and German authorities forces us to take this step,” Isler continues.

The choice of a more distant port is nothing new. Starting in 1979, Rupert Neudeck of Cap Anamur brought over 10,000 Vietnamese refugees, the so-called “boat people”, to safety this way.

Another blockade off Italy unacceptable

Most recently, the Italian authorities had blocked the Spanish rescue ship OPEN ARMS off Sicily until dozens of people jumped off board in desperation, trying to swim ashore themselves.

This is the kind of uncontrollable situation we don’t want to be brought into. We will not accept another blockade,” says Isler.

After consultation with the nautical crew, Isler considers the risks of the journey to be justifiable.

As we will pass many ports off Sardinia, off Corsica and off the south of France, we will be able to ask for support everywhere,” so Isler.

Recently, the French government has regularly been involved in the distribution of people rescued from distress at sea.

We do not know how the French government will react to our request for assistance. But we believe in the support of the French people and that they won’t let the ALAN KURDI be stranded off Marseille,” Isler continues.

Guests aboard the ALAN KURDI

Kai, our human rights observer, speaks to our guests aboard about their experiences. A father from Libya told him why his family had to leave the civil war country.

“There is no more life in Libya. The country has changed and with it the people. There are no prospects there. I have a wife and three children aged seven years, four years and five months.

I lived in Dubai with my family from 2005 to 2017 and I was able to travel without any problems. When we got back to Libya, nothing was like before.

Our house was destroyed in the war, we have nothing left. My son desperately needs surgery that he cannot get in Libya. I’ve tried everything and spent all of our remaining money on him.

Libyan man

My 4 year old son doesn’t really know me. Because we live in constant fear because of the civil war, I can’t even play with him. I can’t let my kids outside either because it’s too dangerous.

“One lives in constant terror in Libya.”

I just want my family to be fine. So I had to leave Libya.

I have known for a long time that many people come to my country to go to Europe, but I never thought that I would have to go. And I never thought I’d leave Libya like this. Some of my family and friends are still there and it hurts me a lot to leave Libya.”

— Father from Libya (45 years old) —

Statement from Kai:

What this family experienced is terrifying and disturbing. At the same time, it clearly shows how unsafe and unstable Libya has become as a result of the civil war. The conversations I have had with our guests so far show that the conditions in Libya are also catastrophic outside of the torture camps.

“We see once again that Libya is not a safe place.”

— Kai, Human Rights Observer —

A civil war has been raging for years. People live in terror and human rights are violated every day.

We are happy to finally be able to give our guests protection and safety aboard the ALAN KURDI.

Rescued children on board the ALAN KURDI

ALAN KURDI reached Lampedusa

Within 12 hours on Saturday the crew rescued 133 people from three different boats. First, 90 people were rescued from a rubber dinghy and 24 people from a small wooden boat at noon.

On neither of the boats there was a satellite telephone so that the people could never have called for help. They would not have arrived anywhere,“ said Kai, human rights observer on board the ALAN KURDI.

The ship’s watch spotted both vessels with binoculars.

Given the size of the search area, it’s pure luck. We wonder how many boats are disappearing unheard and unseen,“ said Kai.

Rescued family at night on the ALAN KURDI

After nightfall, the crew found another wooden boat with 19 people whose emergency call had been forwarded to the authorities and ALAN KURDI by AlarmPhone. 18 people are Libyan citizens. Neither the responsible Libyan authorities nor the rescue control centres in Rome or Valletta responded to the written enquiries of the captain of the Sea-Eye ship.

Many children were saved

62 of the rescued people state to be minors. There are several families and a pregnant woman on board. The youngest child is still a baby and is only five months old, according to the Libyan mother.

The families and the children are particularly vulnerable. The ALAN KURDI has now reached Lampedusa. There, we asked Italy for a safe port and requested that at least the families and the minors be evacuated immediately,” Gorden Isler states, Chairman of Sea-Eye.

Sea-Eye fears another blockade, as the Spanish rescue vessel OPEN ARMS was blocked for more than seven days with about 270 people.

The Italian authorities have become very reluctant to support civilian sea rescuers and prefer to keep our ships in their ports for weeks on end. They seem to have no scruples about putting the rescued people and crews in danger through blockades, only to then argue in a transparent way that the ships are not suitable for precisely these situations,” Isler continues.

The rescued describe reasons for escape

Human rights observer Kai spoke with the survivors on board the ALAN KURDI about their reasons for fleeing.

“There is war in my country. Sunna are being persecuted. I had to flee because they wanted to kill me.”

— 29-year-old man from Yemen —

“The government removed me from my home. Some milices catched me in Libya and I had to pay so that they don’t kill me. I had to flee to survive.”

— 28-year-old man from Egypt —

“The war in Libya destroyed my house and left my family and me without nothing. I spent all I had for a surgery which my son needed but he still needs urgent help which I cannot get in Libya. I never imagined to leave my country like this but there was no other way to protect my family.”

— 45-year-old man from Libya —

ALAN KURDI: Saved Child

Numerous emergencies at sea in international waters

  • ALAN KURDI crew rescues 114 people from two boats
  • So-called Libyan Coast Guard also involved in sea emergencies
  • Sea-Eye signs purchase agreement for rescue ship GHALIB KURDI

On Saturday afternoon, the ALAN KURDI crew rescued a total of 114 people from two different boats. At 11:45 a.m., the ship’s watch first sighted an overloaded rubber dinghy, carrying 90 people. Captain Joachim Ebeling immediately informed the German and Libyan authorities. The people on the rubber boat reported about other boats with people who had fled Libya.


Hence, immediately after the first rescue, a smaller, overcrowded fishing boat with 24 people calling for help was spotted as well. All of the 114 people, including eight women and eight children, are now aboard the ALAN KURDI. Four people are currently being cared for in the ship’s hospital ward, including a pregnant woman and a man with severe circulatory problems. One of the women and one man are being treated for lacerations.

For fear of being dragged back by Libyan militias, these people did not send a distress call for help. This was an enormous risk and they were extremely lucky that our ship’s watch spotted them with their binoculars,” says Gorden Isler, Chairman of Sea-Eye e. V.

So-called Libyan Coast Guard also involved in sea emergencies

Shortly after the second rescue operation, the so-called Libyan coast guard approached at high speed. The Libyan patrol boat was itself involved in a distress call at sea and was completely overloaded as a result. The Libyans did not contact the ALAN KURDI, took the empty fishing boat and turned towards Libya. Neither the Libyan authorities nor the European rescue coordination centers responded to the emergency calls from ALAN KURDI by phone or email.

In the meantime, all communication with aid organizations has ceased and nobody in Europe views themselves as responsible for these people anymore. They are being handed over to the Libyans or the sea. But they are now on a German ship and are finally being treated like humans again,” says Jan Ribbeck from Sea-Eye’s operations management team.

Sea-Eye signs purchase agreement for rescue ship GHALIB KURDI

On Thursday evening Sea-Eye signed the purchase contract for the new, larger rescue ship, which will be named GHALIB KURDI. The organization had already announced this on September 1st at a press conference in Regensburg. Which ship Sea-Eye has selected will remain confidential. It is solely a matter of risk management.

There are some modifications to be made. We are simply concerned about the safety of our volunteers and the safety of the previous owner,” says Isler.

When Sea-Eye took over the former German research vessel PROFESSOR ALBRECHT PENCK (today’s ALAN KURDI), they also did not disclose the name of the vessel until it could safely go on its first mission.

We will equip the ship as fast as possible and then present it together with our new cooperation partners, with whom we will then set off on joint missions,” Isler continues.

Look out for boats in distress

An emergency call can reach us at any time

We now arrived to the Search and Rescue Zone and are preparing ourselves for rescuing people from distress. We hope that no boat tries the dangerous passage but the past months and years have shown that many do not see another way out of the civil war country Libya and then we want to be there for them.

ALAN KURDI in the Mediterranean Sea

Since arriving to the operational area, we are keeping sharp lookout. Apart from the daily duties on board (Cooking, Cleaning, Washing) and the watches, where the operational crew supports the officers on the bridge, we now keep watch two by two in order to identify boats in distress in advance and be able to help.

Look out for boats in distress

Therefore we search the horizon meticulously for small “points”, a boat in distance is not more than that. For this it is important to proceed very slowly and alternate – four eyes see more than two.

If we suspect a boat to be in distress, we consult the captain and the head of mission and we approach the position to check whether someone needs our help.

At the moment the weather is very bad and we have big waves, which would make a possible rescue more difficult. We are really tensed because anytime a distress call can arrive. Even though we are very well prepared and did a lot of trainings, we never know what will happen and we have to react properly to the circumstances.

News about our mission, you can find out on our website or on our social media channels.

With solidarity greetings


Since some days we are now on our way with the ALAN KURDI to the operational area and we are getting used to the daily life on board.

It‘s a good feeling to be underway, because we all know how urgently we are needed. Several ships are still detained in Italy and being prevented from rescuing lives. At the same time still many people try the dangerous trip in overcrowded rubber boats or wooden boats. In this year already more than 500 people drowned while trying to cross the Central Mediterranean. The estimated number of unreported cases has to be way higher.

Training with dinghy

In the last week the rescue ship OPEN ARMS has rescued a total of 267 people and is waiting for a safe harbour now. This means very likely we‘re going to be the only rescue ship in the operational area.

During the passage we are getting used to the life on board and prepare ourselves for our mission. In the last days we trained a lot. Amongst other we did an extensive training with our dinghys today.

In every training we discuss different scenarios and brace ourselves for the worst case to be well prepared. It becomes especially exhausting when many people need our help and need to be rescued. The experience from the past months shows that we have to be prepared to a long standoff until a safe harbour is assigned to us. Therefore, the last days we put a special focus on the care and supply of our guests. If like on our mission in April we have 150 people on board, then already cooking is a big task.

Training with dinghy

Apart from the training we divide the other tasks on board. The daily routines are cooking, cleaning, washing, watch and controlling the machine. On the bridge our captain Joachim and the two officers have two 4-hours-shifts and are always supported by one volunteer. In the engine room our machinists Simon, Albert and Dietmar also share the shifts.

As we arrive to the operational area, we implement another watch in order to not overlook any boat in distress. Apart from the watch we also check the radio all the time for not missing any distress call.

I‘m curious about what comes in the next days. I will keep you informed.

With solidarity greetings

ALAN KURDI in the Mediterranean

Kai started the rescue mission with the ALAN KURDI. In his blog entries he will report about the events on the ALAN KURDI and his experiences.