Future rescue missions at risk due to increased prices and simultaneous drop in donations

On Sept. 16, 2022, the SEA-EYE 4 arrived in Taranto with 129 rescued people, including 48 unaccompanied minors. The port had been assigned to the rescue ship on Thursday. In the afternoon, the first people, more than half of whom had been on board for 14 days, were able to leave the rescue ship.

During the rescue mission, the crew searched for two maritime emergencies in the Maltese search and rescue zone and in both cases received no assistance from the responsible Rescue Coordination Centre in Malta. One time, when the crew tried to call for information, the Rescue Coordination Centre simply hung up.

The current economic and political situation has led to a decrease in donations of more than 30% for Sea-Eye this year. In connection with the increased prices, especially fuel prices, the finance department and the mission management of Sea-Eye are facing the serious question if and when the next rescue missions can be carried out. So far this year, Sea-Eye has been able to carry out five rescue missions, saving over 800 lives, despite a drop in donations.

Humanitarian organizations also have to face sharply increased costs. With a simultaneous drop in donations, these are two significant and threatening factors that endanger our further missions. At the same time, our missions are just as important in the fall and winter because periods of bad weather are increasing. Fewer rescue ships mean that fleeing across the Mediterranean becomes more dangerous, because escape attempts from Libya still take place,” says Gorden Isler, chairman of Sea-Eye e. V.

In 2022, an average of four people died every day while fleeing across the Mediterranean.

The parties of the three-way coalition had promised in their coalition agreement to take action in order to improve the situation.

So far, these are just nice words that don’t help anyone. We do not need appreciations and euphonious promises. The sea rescue organizations finally need substantial support in order to be able to continue saving lives, and political course corrections that contribute to our work becoming superfluous,” Isler criticizes.

In order to be able to maintain rescue operations in the coming months, Sea-Eye, together with supporters including United4Rescue – Gemeinsam Retten e. V. and #LeaveNoOneBehind, has launched a donation doubling campaign: http://sea-eye4.betterplace.org/.

The authorities are harassing aid organizations and increasing the pressure also financially. This happens because they want to use letting people drown as a deterrent. We must not allow this strategy to work. A wall of dead people is being built and hardly anyone is interested. This is so cruel, this must not be allowed to go down, even in difficult times,” says Erik Marquardt, co-founder of LeaveNoOneBehind, which financially supports Sea-Eye. Erik Marquardt is also a member of the European Parliament’s Greens–European Free Alliance.

Medical Evacuation

82 people are missing

From Sunday to Monday (September 4th-5th), the crew of the rescue ship SEA-EYE 4 searched for a distress case in the Maltese Search and Rescue Zone, which had been reported by AlarmPhone to the SEA-EYE 4 and the Maltese Rescue Control Center. AlarmPhone sent updated coordinates several times until it lost communication with the 82 people.

The Maltese Rescue Coordination Center made no discernible attempts to locate the boat. The Maltese Rescue Coordination Center claimed that they had “no information” during a phone call with an AlarmPhone employee. Finally, the AlarmPhone employee was accused of blocking the phone line for other maritime emergencies.

Due to the size of the search area, it was not possible for the SEA-EYE 4 to find the boat without updated coordinates. There is no information on the whereabouts of the 82 people. Although the maritime emergency occurred in the Maltese Search and Rescue Zone, Malta did not involve the SEA-EYE 4 in a coordinated search.

After intensive days of searching by our crew, we know nothing about the fate of the people who called for help in the Search and Rescue Zone of an EU member state. Had Malta sent a surveillance aircraft and involved us in the search, we might have found the people. At least that is what the Maltese Rescue Center would have done if they had been Europeans in distress at sea,” says Gorden Isler, chairman of Sea-Eye e. V.

Already on September 2nd, the crew of the SEA-EYE 4 rescued 76 people from a small, double-decker wooden boat in distress at sea. The distress case had been previously reported by NADIR of the organization Resqship. Among the rescued people are 17 unaccompanied minors and one child. In the following days, the medical team had to treat several patients in the onboard hospital.

On Tuesday, September 6th, the condition of one patient deteriorated massively. He suffered from severe pain in his abdomen and had a fever. The SEA-EYE 4 then requested a medical evacuation from Malta, whereupon the patient was brought ashore by helicopter for medical treatment.

Yesterday evening (September 6th), the SEA-EYE 4 took over 54 previously rescued people from the RISE ABOVE because it is better equipped to care for them.

The additional 54 refugees – including 30 minors – were very weakened and dehydrated when they were taken on board the RISE ABOVE. For three days they had held out on their boat without food or drink. In the meantime, they have all been stabilized. Since they are young and none of them has a chronic illness, we are confident that the new guests will at least remain physically stable,” explains Dr. Angelika Leist, German Doctors mission physician and ship’s doctor on board the SEA-EYE 4.

German Doctors regularly provides volunteer doctors for the rescue missions of the SEA-EYE 4 and contributes financially to the operation of the onboard hospital, where a three-person team often has to treat dozens of rescued people during rescue missions.

There are now 129 people on board the SEA-EYE 4, including 48 minors, 47 of whom are unaccompanied. The crew has asked for a port of safety in Italy.

Man from Bangladesch

On board SEA-EYE 4, a young man from Bangladesh told our crew member Fiona why he left his country and the dangers he faced in Libya. The following report is based on two conversations documented with audio recordings and notes.

I was born in Dhaka, Bangladesh, in a family of 5. I came here alone.

I have many problems back home and I think about it constantly… Life in Bangladesh is difficult. If you are born poor, you stay poor, even if you work hard. I’m responsible for my family as I’m the only son, I have to provide for them and take care of them.

Both of my parents can’t work anymore. My mother had a job in a garments factory but she became very ill and my father is too old to work. He is a good man and a good farmer but the work is becoming too hard for him.

My two sisters would like to study, in Bangladesh you can find a decent job if you get a school diploma. I don’t want them to work in the fields… but we have no money, we can’t even eat properly. Two bags of rice cost half of what I make in a month.


Since covid happened, the situation in Bangladesh has deteriorated, climate change is also affecting us a lot. My mother told me to go to Libya because she believed that I could make good money there, get a good job with a good salary. She sold the family gold jewellery to pay for my plane ticket to Libya.

I do not know how much my mother paid but I heard some people spent 300000 taka (3000 dollars) to smugglers. We travelled through Dubai. When we arrived at the airport in Libya, we called a phone number which was given to us in Bangladesh, then some men came and brought us to a warehouse. We were told we would sleep there for 200 dinar per month.

My mother was wrong, Libya is a dangerous place…about 95 % of bad people and 5 % of good. I have spent one year there before the boat crossing. I worked in housekeeping with eight Bangladeshi, three Sudanese and four Egyptians. Our boss was a wicked man. He would not pay the wages. If you refused to work, he would beat you or threaten to kill you with a gun to your head. I worked for five months without being paid, I was originally promised 1200 dinar per month.

Paper boat

After some time, some of my friends began talking about going to Italy, getting a small boat with a few people, about twenty-five. We had a connection through a taxi driver, a good man, with the ‘Libyan mafia’ to buy a boat. The boat along with the satellite, gps and lifejackets would cost 12000 dinar. It took us two months to gather the money.

We left on the 5th of May, at 10 pm, to avoid the coast guards.

A few hours later, around 2 am, water suddenly began to get inside. The boat was faulty, there was a hole inside, we tried to fix it as much as possible but the water was stronger.

Then we saw the lights of a big cargo ship about 2 km away. We called them for help. The captain of the cargo contacted the Italian coastguards, but they were 445 km away. We called several ships for help, but nobody answered. I prayed for our lives. Finally, BSG Bahamas intervened and told us that the Sea-Eye 4 boat would come to rescue us.


I’m alive, by Allah’s grace but I’m sad because I miss my family. I haven’t seen them in one year. My phone fell in the water and I have no contact with them since leaving Libya.

It’s my life. My family is my dream. I want to buy a big house for them, a big wedding for my sisters. I wish for a wife and many children.