Listen to refugees, not only today!

Together with ‚Refugees in Libya‘ we would like to share two testimonies of refugees in Libya with you so that you can get a small glimpse of the inhumane conditions refugees face in Libya everyday.


This woman, Habiba, a mother of four, is sleeping under a tree on the road near the Office of the UNHCR Tripoli al-Sarraj.

Ben London (co-founder of ‚Refugees in Libya‘): Hello sweetheart, you said you don’t have a home and right now you’re sleeping under the tree here near the UNHCR office. Where is your husband and what is your story?

Habiba: My husband has a broken hand, he can’t work, and you know the situation in Libya when you lose a limb or it breaks and you have a family. We don’t have a house and we don’t even have anything to eat or drink, honestly we are very tired now in the middle of the day and my children haven’t eaten anything yet, either the UNHCR go and stand in front of the door, we are evicted and no one hears us sometimes they give us numbers, tell us call here or send messages, I mean send your order here. Some of us don’t know how to use the phone, sometimes you call, but no one answers.

Woman with child

Ben London: Now you have been here for a week. What have the people of UNHCR told you?

Habiba: When I tried to talk to them, they didn’t tell me anything. They just gave me an appointment for 7 July 2023.

Ben London: Are you new here?

Habiba: No, it has been two years since my registration with the UNHCR, but the agency has not done anything for us, yet.


This man with a broken leg lives on the street near UNHCR office in Tripoli Sarraj neighborhood

Ben London: You are sleeping here outside the UNHCR office. What’s your story?

Man: I’m a refugee with a broken leg. I live on the street, registered with UNHCR since 2021. I have not found any help from UNHCR since then.

I need surgery for my leg and I need shelter. I did not get a response or the simplest human rights. There is no food or water and I am very tired. In general, I want to have an urgent operation and treatments. Because we are poor, we need help and we need attention because we are sleeping on worn mattresses and on the floor.

Man with brocken leg

Both testimonies were translated from Arabic to English.

We thank ‚Refugees in Libya‘ for collecting the testimonies and sharing them with us. We would also like to point out the demands of ‚Refugees in Libya‘ here.

🟠 Evacuation of Refugees from Libya and Tunisia to safe countries

🟠 Freedom and evacuation of the 250 refugees, who are still imprisoned in Ain Zara detention camp in Libya since the mass protests in 2021

🟠 Fair treatment by UNHCR for all refugees in Libya and other North African countries

🟠 Put an end to the financing of the so-called Libyan Coast Guard and detention camps by the EU and European countries

🟠 Justice for those who have been murdered, tortured or arbitrarily detained

🟠 Libya should sign the 1951 Geneva Refugee Convention

🟠 Recognition of ‚Refugees in Libya‘ as an organisation to represent these demands and to have regular talks with UNHCR and other institutions.

Empty boat

Once again it was reported that a boat with up to 400 refugees on board has sunk off the Greek coast. So far 78 people have been recovered dead and 104 rescued. The worst must be assumed for the remaining people.

According to media reports, the maritime emergency had already been found the day before by a Frontex aircraft. Nevertheless, the help for dozens of people came much too late. Once again it shows that Frontex is supposed to stop people seeking protection at the EU’s external border and is not there to protect human lives.

These people, who fled from the civil war country Libya, drowned at a time when EU is massively strengthening its isolation and Italy is detaining three rescue ships, including the SEA-EYE 4. For years, Sea-Eye has been demanding that the human right to life and the right to asylum be respected. For this, it is indispensable that safe escape routes are finally established.


Sea rescuers warn that all rescue ships could be detained

On Sunday afternoon, the sea rescue organization Sea-Eye appealed to the German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and the German Foreign Office with an urgent request for help. Previously, the Italian authorities had detained the German rescue ships SEA-EYE 4 of Sea-Eye and MARE*GO of Zusammenland.

Both vessels rescued a total of 86 people seeking protection from unseaworthy boats last week. In both cases, the vessels were each punished with 20 days of administrative detention. The SEA-EYE 4 is accused of interrupting its approach to Ortona, the port of disembarkation assigned by Italian authorities, to rescue more people from distress at sea instead of maintaining its course as requested.

We cannot ignore distress calls. That’s why we changed course,” said Gorden Isler, chairman of Sea-Eye e. V.

In case of repetition, the sea rescuers face even harsher penalties. Should the SEA-EYE 4 again carry out further rescues on a future mission, although the Italian Maritime Rescue Coordination Center has already assigned a port of disembarkation, high fines and a further detention for up to six months can be imposed. In the event of a further repetition, a rescue ship should then even be able to be detained indefinitely according to the new Italian law of 24.02.2023.

This law could completely shut down civilian sea rescue if the Italian authorities continue to apply it in this way. After all, we will not ignore distress calls to prevent detentions. To put us in front of this choice is inhumane and irresponsible,” Isler continues.

In a message to German Foreign Minister Baerbock and the German Foreign Office, Sea-Eye asked that they work to ensure that

1. civilian rescue ships are not detained for having conducted multiple rescue missions,

2. the detentions of the SEA-EYE 4 and MARE*GO lifted and to refrain from fines,

3. civilian rescue ships are used optimally by Italian and Maltese authorities to save as many lives as possible,

4. the donation-funded resources of civilian sea rescue organizations are not wasted by sending ships to faraway ports in order to reduce their operating time in the Libyan and Maltese search and rescue zone and

5. the Maltese rescue coordination center resumes its coordination duties for fleeing people in distress at sea in order to avoid further fatalities.

We have now reached a point where it is still possible to prevent all civilian rescue ships from being detained for longer periods of time in a few months because of too many rescue operations,” the message to the German Foreign Office concludes.

Sea-Eye will appeal the assessment decision. The organization has 60 days to do so. However, a quick decision is unlikely, as proceedings before Italian administrative courts are complex and lengthy.

Disembarkation in Ortona

Italian coast guard punishes SEA-EYE 4 with 20 days administrative detention for saving 32 lives

On Friday evening, the Italian Coast Guard told the Italian press that the German rescue ships SEA-EYE 4 and MARE*GO have been detained for 20 days. Shortly after, Sea-Eye was also informed, with a reference to a new Italian law of Feb. 24, 2023, that the SEA-EYE 4 will be detained for 20 days in Ortona for saving 32 lives in a rescue operation.

According to the Italian Coast Guard, the reason for the detention is that after rescuing 17 people in the Libyan search and rescue zone, the vessel rescued 32 more people in the Maltese search and rescue zone and did not approach the port of Ortona as soon as possible. The SEA-EYE 4 stopped its approach to Ortona on Tuesday evening and turned around because there was a distress call from a boat with more than 400 people in the Maltese search and rescue zone. The boat was eventually spotted by the civilian search aircraft SEABIRD. The operator organization Sea-Watch reported it on Twitter. Since no state actor confirmed the coordination of the maritime emergency and Malta has not coordinated maritime emergencies of people seeking protection in the Maltese search and rescue zone for many months, the additional rescue mission for Sea-Eye was without alternative.


While searching for the 400 people, the SEA-EYE 4 received a distress call from a sailboat that had discovered 32 people on an unseaworthy boat. The Sea-Eye rescue vessel then brought the people on board to safety.

On Wednesday night, the SEA-EYE 4 continued to search for the 400 people, who finally reached the Italian search and rescue zone under their own power. They were rescued by the Italian Coast Guard only shortly before reaching Sicily.

It is therefore wrong for the Italian Coast Guard to claim that a patrol boat was already on its way. The people first had to reach the Italian search and rescue zone under their own power in order to receive help there. To punish us now for complying with international laws is justified solely on the basis of the new Italian law, which serves to quickly remove civilian rescue ships from the area of operation and to let them call at far-away ports in order to reduce the arrivals of people seeking protection as much as possible,” says Gorden Isler, chairman of Sea-Eye e.V.


The detention of the SEA-EYE 4 now prevents another rescue mission of the ship, although the current year is deadlier and more dangerous for people seeking protection than the previous five years.

Italy’s new strategy is perfidious and transparent. The long journeys to assigned, distant ports will always mean that we have to decide on the way there whether to respond to more incoming distress calls. Of course we do, and this then leads to accusations that we are breaking Italian laws. Even though these laws are only a few months old, this creates the public impression that our action is illegal. It is another reprehensible attempt to criminalize sea rescue and flight itself in order to justify ever more brutal state action,” Isler continues.

Disembarkation in Ortona

Fears of penalties have not materialized so far

On Friday morning, the rescue ship SEA-EYE 4 docked in the port of Ortona and the 49 refugees on board were able to go ashore. The crew had rescued 17 people from unseaworthy wooden boats last Sunday and 32 on Wednesday.

Since Italian authorities already detained and fined a rescue ship in February for carrying out multiple rescues, Sea-Eye is concerned that the SEA-EYE 4 may also be detained and fined. So far, authorities have not announced any action, though fines may still be imposed many weeks later.

Our crew and the refugees were kindly welcomed by the local authorities, for which we are very grateful. But even if we did not feel the state repression directly today, it is still unbearable that sea rescuers are always at risk of being criminalized and punished,” says Gorden Isler, chairman of Sea-Eye e. V..

Disembarkation in Ortona