Donations are needed for 9 planned missions in 2024

On the afternoon of Boxing Day (26th December 2023), the crew of the sea rescue ship SEA-EYE 4 rescued a total of 106 people from two different boats. Both boats were spotted by the ship’s crew itself. The distress cases occurred in the Maltese search and rescue zone, south of Lampedusa. The ship’s head of mission then informed the responsible authorities.

Among those rescued are 40 minors. The youngest of them are five and six years old and are accompanied by their parents. A 13-year-old boy from Guinea and a 14-year-old boy from Mali fled alone. The people on both boats stated that they had fled towards Europe via Tunisia on Tuesday night (26th December 2023). They had fled from Eritrea, Guinea, Cameroon, Mali, Gambia and Senegal, among others.

The Maltese Rescue Coordination Centre responsible did not respond. The Italian Rescue Coordination Centre assigned the SEA-EYE 4 to the Italian port of Brindisi to disembark the rescued people. The passage will take around three days. The SEA-EYE 4’s head of mission expects the ship to arrive in Brindisi on Friday afternoon.


The 5th mission of the year ends at the port of Brindisi. One mission was cancelled due to a detention by the Italian coastguard. In total, the SEA-EYE 4 was detained three times in 2023. All three detentions were based on the allegations of a violation of the so-called Piantedosi Law of February 2023. The joint crews of Sea-Eye e.V., German Doctors e.V. and Refugee Rescue nevertheless managed to save 504 lives. The three organisations will continue to work together in the coming year to save as many people as possible from drowning.

“Yesterday, while we were celebrating Christmas, 106 people were rescued from the Mediterranean by the crew of the SEA-EYE 4. As Nour Hanna, our volunteer doctor on board, told us, fortunately none of them were in a critical medical situation. The fact that so many families with young children choose this dangerous escape route makes us realise how important it is to continue our cooperation with Sea-Eye and Refugee Rescue. It guarantees medical care during sea rescues,” said Dr Harald Kischlat, Chairman of German Doctors.


Sea-Eye plans to carry out a total of 9 missions in the new year, as no major shipyard operations need to be taken into account. However, the donations are not yet sufficient to achieve this goal. So far, only the first two missions of the first quarter have been approved by the organisation’s executive board. Further support still needs to be found.

“We have a ship ready to go and a strong team on land and at sea. Now it’s just a matter of being able to finance all the missions in the forthcoming year. We are aware of the increasing political headwinds. However, we will not give up, we will keep relying on the solidarity of our supporters and together we will continue to fight for every single human life,” says Gorden Isler, Chairman of Sea-Eye e.V.


26 people brought ashore in Civitavecchia

The SEA-EYE 4 set sail from Italy on Friday morning and is currently heading for its area of operation in the central Mediterranean to search for people in acute mortal danger over the Christmas days. Previously, on Thursday afternoon, the crew brought 26 people ashore in Civitavecchia who had been rescued on Monday (18.12.23) in three-meter-high waves and strong winds. Among the refugees were ten Syrians and three unaccompanied Syrian minors.

Together with our partner German Doctors, we are immensely grateful to the crew and the mission doctor that they will be spending Christmas at sea instead of being at home with their families. At a time when EU member states continue to undermine universal human rights and are even willing to detain families with children at the EU’s external borders, civilian actors must mobilize even more forces and show solidarity. We continue to oppose a policy of isolation,” says Gorden Isler, Chairman of Sea-Eye e. V.

New legal opinion underlines the risk of criminalisation of sea rescue by a draft law of the German government

The rescue ship SEA-EYE 4 left the Italian port of Taranto on Friday night (8 December 2023) and set off on its last mission of the year. This is the ship’s fifth mission of the year. One of a total of three detentions of the ship led to the cancellation of a mission. Sea-Eye appealed against all three detentions before Italian administrative courts. A decision by the courts is still pending in all three cases.

Andreas Krahl, a member of the Bavarian state parliament and nurse, is also on board. This is the second time he has spent the month of December on board the SEA-EYE 4. Krahl is part of the joint medical team of German Doctors e.V. and Sea-Eye e.V. in the on-board hospital of SEA-EYE 4. The Bonn-based aid organisation German Doctors has been working with Sea-Eye for three years and is once again providing the on-board doctor Nour Hanna as medical director of the mission.

The humanitarian situation at Europe’s external borders is deteriorating. This year, at least 2,500 people have already died while fleeing across the Mediterranean. Our last joint mission with the SEA-EYE 4, in which four people could only be rescued dead, once again brought this sad fact clearly to our eyes. It is therefore all the more important that an experienced doctor from German Doctors, Nour Hanna, is once again on board on this last mission of the SEA-EYE 4 this year. As a paediatrician, she already volunteered on the SEA-EYE 4 last year before Christmas and is also familiar with the situation of refugees in Greece. She also cared for patients at our medical centre in Thessaloniki as a German Doctor. We are very grateful to her and the entire crew for their important volunteer work and wish everyone involved all the best for the mission,” says Dr Harald Kischlat, member of the board of German Doctors e.V.

While the crew of the SEA-EYE 4 is on its way to the operational area, the German Bundestag is discussing the so-called Repatriation Improvement Act. It provides for an amendment to Section 96 of the Residence Act. A new legal opinion by Prof. Dr Aziz Epik (University of Hamburg) and Prof. Dr Valentin Schatz (Leuphana University of Lüneburg) expressly warns of the danger of criminalising civilian sea rescuers through the draft law presented by the Federal Ministry of the Interior.

The amendment of Section 96 (4) of the Residence Act proposed by the Federal Ministry of the Interior, which will extend to cases of altruistic assistance for unauthorised entry, poses the risk that civilian sea rescuers will be criminalised. Section 96 (4) of the Residence Act refers to the law of the European country of entry, for example Italy, for the question of the unauthorised nature of the entry. We consider that at least some of the rescued people will formally enter the country of disembarkation (for example, Italy) without formal authorisation. Accordingly, Section 96 (4) of the Residence Act would apply. That said, in our opinion, the conduct of civilian sea rescuers during the rescue operation and the transfer of people to a port of disembarkation would be justified as a state of emergency under Section 34 StGB. However, this view is not undisputed and it is also not sufficient to include a corresponding intention of the legislator in the explanatory memorandum to the law, as law enforcement authorities and criminal courts are not bound by such an explanation. We therefore advocate to incorporate at least an explicit exception to the offence in Section 96(4) of the Residence Act, as is already permitted under European law pursuant to Directive 2002/90/EC for all forms of humanitarian assistance,” says Prof. Dr Valentin Schatz, Junior Professor of Public Law and European Law at the Leuphana University of Lüneburg.

In the past, Italian and Maltese authorities have repeatedly questioned whether a distress case involving people fleeing in the Mediterranean is a distress case at all. For example, the Maltese Rescue Coordination Centre asked merchant ships such as the MTS Southport in December 2022 not to rescue people and to change course. The people later rescued by the SEA-EYE 4 included seriously injured people who would not have survived the crossing to Italy.

In precisely such a case, the draft law makes it possible to initiate criminal proceedings against the Sea-Eye crew. Because if a European authority does not recognise an emergency at sea as such, but the SEA-EYE 4 rescues the people from acute life-threatening danger and then disembarks them in a European port, the German public prosecutor’s office would at least have to investigate whether Sea-Eye acted in accordance with the law and initiate investigations against our crew. This draft law must not come into force because it criminalises crew members and discourages them from providing humanitarian aid on a rescue ship. The Italian strategy of criminalising and frightening sea rescuers must not become the legal standard in Germany,” says Gorden Isler, Chairman of Sea-Eye e.V.