So-called Libyan Coast Guard prevents escape from civil war country Libya

On Wednesday afternoon, March 30, 2022, a distress call was forwarded to SEA-EYE 4, which the Alarm Phone reported to the responsible authorities. The rescue ship was already on its way to Malta because the mission was scheduled to end on Wednesday. But the SEA-EYE 4 was the only rescue ship east of Tripoli and therefore turned back. After several hours of sailing, the SEA-EYE 4 found the gray rubber boat with 74 people, including 22 children aboard. 15 people had to be treated in the ship’s sick bay. The refugees come from Egypt, Nigeria, Sudan, South Sudan and Syria. Together with the rescued people who were taken over by SEA-EYE 4 from a container ship on Tuesday, there are now a total of 106 rescued persons aboard the ship.

Another emergency call reported by Alarm Phone led to an all-night search for 90 people in distress on Wednesday. The search was unsuccessful and had to be interrupted on Thursday morning because the coordinates of another boat with 145 people in distress were reported to the ship. Before the SEA-EYE 4 could reach the boat in distress, Alarm Phone had already reported an illegal push-back by the so-called Libyan Coast Guard.

With the renewal of the IRINI mandate, the federal government declared that the Libyan coast guard could no longer be supported and trained, but here in the Libyan rescue zone we will continue to be eyewitnesses to returns that violate international law,” says Gorden Isler, Chairman of Sea-Eye e. V.

There is no information about the whereabouts of 90 people, even if the probability of a push-back is very high in this case as well.

A shipwreck that nobody will ever talk about again, because it’s obviously become normality for us in Europe that black people fleeing to suffer such a fate is unfortunately also a possibility,” Isler continues.

The SEA-EYE 4 must now find a safe place to disembark 106 people from six different countries of origin.

If the people hadn’t been rescued, it would have been very unlikely that they would have survived, because the weather has changed suddenly in the last few days,” says Isler.

On Tuesday, 32 people were rescued from a small fishing boat by the container ship KARINA in 4 m waves. Hagen Kopp from Alarm Phone called Tuesday’s escape attempt “completely desperate” because the people on this route had “little chance of survival” without rescue by a container ship.The SEA-EYE 4 will enter Maltese waters on Friday, one day before the Pope’s visit. A meeting with migrants in a Catholic reception center is also planned.

Perhaps an unequivocal appeal by the Pope to the Maltese government can make Malta, as the closest EU state, feel responsible for 106 people seeking protection,” says Isler.


German shipowner of the KARINA calls SEA-EYE 4 for help off Libya

On Monday afternoon, March 28, 2022, the crew of the merchant ship KARINA, under the command of the Ukrainian captain Vasyl Maksymenko, saved 32 people who were fleeing from drowning in international waters off Libya. The merchant ship of the North German KLINGENBERG Bereederungs- & Befrachtungs GmbH & Co. KG, a shipping company from Ellerbek, was on its way from Malta to Benghazi when it was made aware of the distress call at sea by the aid organization Alarm Phone.

The boat was in grave danger of capsizing. The people aboard wouldn’t have survived that. The waves had already reached four meters since their departure. They would not have been able to get anywhere on their own,” says Vasyl Maksymenko, captain of the KARINA.

At that time, the SEA-EYE 4 was around 50 hours away from the emergency and was unable to provide any immediate assistance. However, the rescue ship and its operations management, together with numerous state and other non-state actors, were involved in the correspondence on the distress at sea.

Due to the dramatic exchange of information on the case, the SEA-EYE 4 contacted the merchant ship KARINA and offered support. At the same time, SEA-EYE 4’s operations management contacted the owner of the KARINA to signal their willingness to help.

Shipowner Thies Klingenberg was immediately aware of the difficult situation.

It’s not the first time that we’ve rescued people from the Mediterranean Sea. However, our ships are not suitable for the catering and medical treatment of shipwrecked persons,” says Klingenberg.

On Monday afternoon, the shipping company and Captain Maksymenko asked the SEA-EYE 4 for help.

The flag state of KARINA, Antigua and Barbuda, has signed the Geneva Refugee Convention,” wrote Captain Maksymenko to SEA-EYE 4. The rescued people must be taken to a place of safety. “A safe place is a place where the lives of survivors are not threatened and where their basic human needs can be met. The protection of their basic rights must be taken into account: For refugees, this means that they must not be forced back into a war zone. This prohibits bringing people who’re fleeing back to Libya!” Maksymenko continues.

The KARINA and the SEA-EYE 4 agreed on a rendezvous and met on Tuesday afternoon, around 55 nautical miles from the Libyan coast. A team of doctors and the head of mission of SEA-EYE 4 boarded the KARINA to assess the situation. According to their own statements, the fleeing people stayed on their wooden boat for at least three days. Therefore, some of the rescued people are currently being treated for hypothermia and dehydration in the ship’s sick bay. The captains of both ships assessed the situation and concluded that the SEA-EYE 4 is the more suitable and safer vessel for the 32 survivors. Hence, Sea-Eye operations management then agreed to take the rescued people aboard.


We have enough provisions, accommodation and an onboard hospital to safely take aboard such a number of people for a short period of time,” says Gorden Isler, Chairman of Sea-Eye e. V.

The SEA-EYE 4 has a so-called Rescue Notation from its classification society, and the Italian Coast Guard confirmed the SEA-EYE 4’s suitability for short-term care for up to 200 people after technical adjustments in the summer of 2021, if a safe port can be reached in a timely manner to disembark survivors.

The SEA-EYE 4 will be heading for Malta in the next few hours.

Malta is the closest EU member state. We will ask for a disembarkation port there,” says Isler.

However, Malta has been closing its ports for the disembarkation of people rescued from distress for several years. The last time that a Sea-Eye ship was allowed to bring rescued people to safety in Malta was in the summer of 2019. Since then, Maltese policy towards people fleeing has become increasingly defensive.


We will now see whether the Geneva Convention on Refugees is just as important to Malta as it was to the Ukrainian Captain Maksymenko, who prevented a push-back to a war zone in violation of international law,” Isler continues.