Great solidarity among alliance partners Sea-Watch and Sea-Eye

Sea-Eye recently completed the upgrade of the new rescue ship SEA-EYE 4 in Rostock and sent it on its way to the Mediterranean. The delays in the shipyard work caused by the corona pandemic, combined with extensive new safety requirements, led to rising costs for Sea-Eye. The civil sea rescue organization Sea-Watch now shows great solidarity and agreed to support Sea-Eye financially for the purpose of completing all final and necessary upgrades aboard  the SEA-EYE 4, as well as promoting long-term sustainability of organizational structures and processes with 550,000 euros.

Especially in times of crisis we have to stick together and show what practical solidarity really means. Because Europe continues to let people drown in the Mediterranean and prevents civil sea rescuers from rescuing them, we must ensure that all rescue workers are mobilized in the Mediterranean. With the SEA-EYE 4, another ship of solidarity is launched. We are pleased that, together with our supporters, we can contribute to the continuation of the struggle for human rights in the Mediterranean,” Marlene Lippmann, Head of Fundraising Sea-Watch.

Thanks to the great solidarity of our alliance partner Sea-Watch, Sea-Eye is back on track. Now we are working with enormous concentration to raise enough donations to continuously stay operational year-round,” says Gorden Isler, chairman of Sea-Eye e. V.

SOS Mediterranee: Tweet

April 22nd, 2021, 9:35 PM

Before I started to write this text, I was busy with day-to-day NGO business. Writing emails and working on documents mostly. And then I checked my phone and what I saw was horrifying. I had to stop what I was doing and instead I wrote this piece – it’s my raw thoughts and feelings, and it’s a plea – a plea for humanity.

Tonight my cellphone beeped and what popped up was a tweet by our SAR NGO colleagues SOS Méditerranée. Yesterday we had already heard about a woman and child dying while attempting to cross the Med. Suffice to say it’s not quite a premonition to get a weird feeling in your gut whenever you receive a tweet from the search-and-rescue zone in the Mediterranean Sea. As soon as I read the first few words I could feel myself choking up. I clenched my jaw. An all too familiar feeling, since having started to participate in civil sea rescue three years ago.

Sophie Weidenhiller

In that tweet, the NGO reports that “after hours of search, [their] worst fear has come true”. They are talking about one of the search-and-rescue cases that they were alerted to: 130 people aboard an unseaworthy boat in the middle of the central Mediterranean in rough seas. They tried their best to save those people but were forced to experience what is the worst fear for anyone in sea rescue: they were too late.

Ca. 130 human lives were lost at sea, again. There was no state-side support for the search and the rescue of these persons, all authorities refused to take responsibility to prevent this loss of life, as they have so comfortably accustomed themselves to.

Only the lifeless bodies of some of the people were recovered by the Ocean Viking crew. The crew aboard this rescue vessel had to face tonight, what European politicians refuse to face: man-made human suffering beyond imagination.

This keeps happening to me: I write about civil sea-rescue I research the number of victims who died up to the current day. And almost every time, from the time I start writing a text, like this very one you are reading right now, till my colleagues have proofread it or an interview gets published by the media: the number has already increased. Only hours ago I gave a radio interview and reported about the 448 deaths this year so far. Shortly after, I checked again and the IOM’s missing migrants page already displayed 450 people who died. Although, that’s not even including the victims SOS Méditerranée and Alarmphone just informed us about. These yellow numbers on a blue background and map of the space between Africa and Europe – it has become an agonizing ticker to me: a constant reminder of how we continue to fail to protect those most in need of rescue, protection and support.

Human rights don’t just end at our borders – but it is where they are currently drowned.

In 2021, hundreds of people have died already trying to save their lives and make it to safety but have instead lost their lives, due to the reckless, cruel, inhumane and deadly so-called EU Migration and Asylum policies. And the death toll would have been even higher if it weren’t for civil sea rescue organizations – like our brave and dedicated colleagues – who won’t give up or back down and continue to conduct sea rescue missions no matter what complications they face.

More than twice as many people have died while trying to cross the Med this year, compared to last year. More than twice as many have died in total, than during the same period in 2020. This route is getting deadlier by the day, while the EU refuses to do abide by international laws or even show simple human decency and while the responsible authorities sit idly by, an accessory to this intentional negligence.

I salute the crew of the Ocean Viking, I hope it somehow suffices for them to know that at least they tried their very best. I cannot even imagine how they must feel, only being able to salvage bodies, the fear of death still etched into their faces, instead of being able to provide assistance to living, breathing human beings.

I feel enraged, I feel deeply saddened. I feel frustrated. I feel many things. I will continue to feel it all, every single time with every single death notice. Because I refuse to get used to this. I cannot and I will not. Ever. And I know that there are so many people who feel the same way. And this is crucial: because it is not about me, not in the least. It is about the people who lost everything they had including their literal lives. We need to continue feeling sad and we need to stay angry, stay vigilant, we must not stop caring. However, these feelings need to guide us into action. We must act. We need to stand up for the people who die at our borders, at the will of our politicians, and we need to be loud and clear: We do not want or accept these deaths to occur. We, as Europeans need to do better. Now!

Sophie Weidenhiller

Finally, and most importantly, my thoughts, my prayers, my heart goes out to the ones who lost their lives today, in such a tragic, preventable way. Those who cried for help and no one came, no one made it in time. The same goes for every single person who has suffered such a fate or has lost a loved one to this madness we dare call border policies. I know there’s nothing anyone can say or do to ease their pain or to bring anyone back to life.

The only thing that we can do is to promise to do better, to help better, to be better allies, to continue to fight for human rights and to prevent the loss of life at sea as best we can.

Europe, we can do better. We must do better.

Sophie Weidenhiller,
Intl. spokesperson for  Sea-Eye, SEA-EYE 4 crew member, but most of all: fellow human


Photos from a rescue mission involving Sophie Weidenhiller from 2018.

The departure of the SEA-EYE 4 was a heartfelt moment for all of us and we would like to share it with you. For this purpose, we filmed the casting off of the ship and the first few miles of its journey. Enjoy the video!

Sea-Eye and United4Rescue are sending the SEA-EYE 4 to the Mediterranean

The new rescue ship SEA-EYE 4 left its shipyard in Rostock on Saturday morning, April 17, 2021, and set sail for the Mediterranean. The rescue ship had been overhauled and upgraded for six months by ca. 250 volunteers in preparation for its first mission. A few days ago the SEA-EYE 4 received the German flag and the German flag state administration gave the green light for the start of operations. The arrival of the SEA-EYE 4 in Spain is scheduled for the end of April, from there it will set out on its first rescue mission as quickly as possible.

“People have been dying in the Mediterranean Sea for many years. At least 406 deaths were recorded in 2021 already. The departure of the SEA-EYE 4 is an important signal from a broad civil society alliance to the EU member states. Letting people drown in the Mediterranean in order to reduce the number of asylum applications in Europe and to deter others from fleeing is inhuman. This irresponsible policy lacks support from civil society. United4Rescue with its 744 alliance partners, the Protestant and Catholic Church and thousands of donors have made this clear again today,” says Gorden Isler, Chairman of Sea-Eye e. V.


Financial tailwind from large parts of civil society

The purchase and upgrade of the rescue ship was largely made possible by United4Rescue, an alliance for civil sea rescue, and a substantial part of the mission costs are also covered by this alliance. The transfer of the SEA-EYE 4 into the Mediterranean is financed by donations from the Catholic (arch) dioceses of Munich and Freising, Paderborn and Trier.

“The SEA-EYE 4 is not just another rescue ship that saves people from drowning in the Mediterranean. It is also a symbol that we as United4Rescue, together with our many allies and supporters, will not let up in our commitment to humanity. We do not want to stand idly by and watch people dying in the Mediterranean Sea – that is why we are more than happy to be able to help send another ship – the SEA-EYE 4 – on rescue missions,” says Thies Gundlach, Chairman of United4Rescue.


“We would like to thank everyone who made it possible that another rescue ship can now set sail for the Mediterranean. Special thanks go to the many volunteer shipyard helpers, the many donors and our partners. It is only because everyone has worked together so well that we can now see a rescue ship in motion to further defend human rights against all odds,” said Isler.

Construction and equipment of the SEA-EYE 4

The construction type of the former offshore supply vessel is very well suited for sea rescue missions and offers a lot of space for the first aid of rescued people. The sickbay is up to par with modern standards and is also well prepared for coronavirus patients.

To carry out rescue missions, the SEA-EYE 4 has two cranes that can lower its two rescue boats safely and quickly into the water. In the event of a search and rescue case, these tenders will approach the people in need of rescue, distribute life jackets and evacuate the unseaworthy boats in distress.

The SEA-EYE 4 (built in 1972) is 53 m long, 11.5 m wide, has a top speed of 10.5 knots and will carry out its missions with up to 26 crew members.

Italian judge ends 6 month detention

The detention of the rescue ship ALAN KURDI was heard before the regional administrative court of Sardinia in Cagliari on Wednesday morning. The Italian coast guard detained the ALAN KURDI on October 9, 2020 after its crew had saved 133 lives. Sea-Eye then filed an urgent procedure lawsuit against the disproportionate measure.

On Friday, the judge ruled that the ship must no longer be detained, as Sea-Eye suffers “severe financial damage from the detention” and “further damage of a complex nature” can result if Sea-Eye is not allowed to transfer the ship to to Spain to undergo its scheduled biyearly inspection and maintenance works in a timely manner. The trial date in the main matter, where a decision will be made on the legality of the detention, was set for November 3, 2021.

During the negotiation, a representative of the Italian Ministry of Transport stated that the flag state of Germany would not live up to its responsibility if stricter rules were not laid down for German ships that are used to rescue people in the central Mediterranean. Sea-Eye’s lawyers, however, submitted that both the German and the Spanish competent authorities, as well as an internationally recognized ship classification society, had fully certified the required ship safety of ALAN KURDI.

The detention of rescue ships is irresponsible because it is exclusively politically motivated. With its accusation to the Federal Ministry of Transport, the Italian Ministry of Transport made it clear what it was really about. When it comes to detaining German rescue ships, the main aim is to impose a new rescue ship class on the Federal Ministry of Transport because it is assumed that it will be difficult for us to meet the requirements,“ says Gorden Isler, Chairman of Sea-Eye.

The detention of the ALAN KURDI, the SEA-WATCH 3 and the SEA-WATCH 4 and the discussions about ship classes are measures taken by Italy to systematically suspend civil sea rescue. In 2018, sea rescue in the Mediterranean was stalled for months when Italy sparked a discussion about the flags of the rescue ships. The ships SEA-EYE, SEEFUCHS and LIFELINE could no longer be used. After the sea rescue organizations had adapted their ships in this regard, Italy is now attacking the ship classes of the rescue ships.

The discussions about technical equipment and certificates only serve the purpose of distracting from the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean, which the EU member states have been maintaining together,” continued Isler.

The ALAN KURDI is now being prepared for its transfer to Spain in order to carry out planned maintenance work. The long legal battle to free the ALAN KURDI was a major financial challenge for Sea-Eye. The upcoming shipyard work will also require additional financial resources, for which Sea-Eye is dependent on donations.

Proceedings for the release of ALAN KURDI to be heard in court

On April 7, 2021, the court hearing for the release of the rescue ship ALAN KURDI will take place in Cagliari, Sardinia. The Italian coast guard had the ship detained on October 9, 2020 in Olbia, Sardinia, after it had rescued 133 people, including 62 minors, in three successful rescue operations.

The detention of the rescue ship by Italian authorities is part of a systematic attack by the EU member states on people fleeing as well as civil sea rescuers. For decades, the EU countries have tried to deter people seeking protection at their external borders. The EU states ceased their own search and rescue missions years ago and instead decided to massively attack civil sea rescue organizations by political and legal means.

Sophie Weidenhiller

Political and legal attacks on sea rescuers

In addition to political defamation campaigns, legal attacks are carried out on the civil sea rescuers. Italy repeatedly detains rescue ships on flimsy grounds and against the law of the flag states. The Italian public prosecutor’s office has been investigating sea rescue organizations for years and in early March 2021 opened a case against 21 sea rescuers from the humanitarian aid organizations Doctors Without Borders, Jugend Rettet and Save the Children. If convicted, they face maximum sentences of up to twenty years in prison.

Dariush Beigui

The political and legal attacks on sea rescuers were already evident in 2017 when Italy slandered the aid organization Jugend Rettet and blocked the rescue ship IUVENTA. A year later, the Italian government exerted considerable pressure on flag states such as the Netherlands and Panama, which then withdrew their flags from the rescue ships of various civil sea rescue organizations and prevented the ships from being used.

Crimes against humanity

While the EU states are trying to stop the European sea rescuers, they are funding the so-called Libyan coast guard to push refugees back to the civil war country Libya and its torture camps. Omer Shatz therefore filed a complaint with the International Criminal Court in The Hague in 2019 for crimes against humanity, because he sees this policy as a systematic attack on people fleeing at sea.

On the occasion of the ALAN KURDI hearing, we not only demand the release of the rescue ship, but also a complete U-turn regarding the migration policy of the EU countries. The political attacks against refugees and humanitarian organizations must stop immediately. This policy has already claimed tens of thousands of deaths. This needs to end now! The name Alan Kurdi should suffice to remind politicians to change their policies at once,” appeals Gorden Isler, Chairman of Sea-Eye e. V. to the EU states.