Zwei Menschen stehen am Rand der Rettungszone des Schiffes und geben einer Person mit Schwimmweste die Hand, um sie an Bord zu heben. Zwei Menschen stehen unten und helfen von dort.

After the rescue, the Italian authorities ordered the vessel to the port of Genoa, more than 600 nautical miles away

On the night of May 29th 2024, the Alarm-Phone-Initiative informed the authorities and the rescue ship SEA-EYE 4 of a maritime emergency in the Maltese search and rescue zone. At around 2am, the crew of SEA-EYE 4 reached the rubber boat in distress and evacuated the 51 people on board.

“Immediately after arriving on the ship, most of the rescued people were very exhausted, hypothermic and suffering from seasickness. Now their condition has improved significantly and all those rescued are at least physically stable and in relatively good condition”, says Dr. Daniela Klein, on-board doctor on the SEA-EYE 4 for German Doctors e.V.

Julie Schweickert, Head of Mission on board the SEA-EYE 4, emphasises: “We found an overcrowded rubber boat that was being tossed back and forth by the waves. The rescue went without any incidents and we are now on our way to Genoa in north-west Italy with the 51 survivors. We expect to arrive there on Sunday –  that’s almost four days that we spend sailing to a distant port. Although there are enough ports of safety in the south of Italy, able to receive people on the move and provide the right services to them, we have to leave the search and rescue zone and cannot respond to further emergencies.”

The Italian authorities repeatedly assign harbors with long journey times to civilian sea rescue vessels.  After the SEA-EYE 4 last rescued 52 people from distress at sea on May 20th, the ship had to head for Ravenna in the Emilia-Romagna region. The port was around 900 nautical miles away from the scene of the operation.

Drei Menschen stehen auf einem Boot und

The sea rescue ship brought the survivors ashore in Ravenna (Italy)

The SEA-EYE 4 left the port of Ravenna on Saturday May 25th to return to its area of operation in the central Mediterranean. Earlier that day, the crew had evacuated 52 people to safety on the Italian mainland. They had been rescued at sea on May 20th. The SEA-EYE 4 responded to a distress call from the rescue vessel MARE*GO, which had spotted an unseaworthy and overcrowded fibreglass boat. After the rescue, the Italian authorities ordered the SEA-EYE 4 to the port of Ravenna in the Emilia-Romagna region, 900 nautical miles away.

“We have the capacity on the SEA-EYE 4 to help many more people in need. But the Piantedosi Decree is forcing us to leave the area of operation and head for a distant port under threat of penalty. Despite the obstacles, we will not stop saving lives: That’s why the SEA-EYE 4 immediately returned to the area of operation”, says Gorden Isler, Chairman of Sea-Eye e.V.

The so-called Piantedosi Decree makes the work of civilian sea rescuers much more difficult. For example, it requires rescue vessels to sail directly to a port designated by the authorities after a rescue operation. In the past, the SEA-EYE 4 was also detained because the crew rescued other people in distress at sea despite being assigned a port. Violations are punishable by fines and detentions. The decree contradicts international maritime law, which generally requires ships to assist people in distress at sea.

Rescue ship MARE*GO sent out the distress call for the operation

The sea rescue ship SEA-EYE 4 rescued 52 people in the central Mediterranean on Monday evening (May 20, 2024). Two people required emergency medical treatment. The rescue operation took place in the Maltese search and rescue zone.

On Monday afternoon, the SEA-EYE 4 received a distress call from the sea rescue vessel MARE*GO from Zusammenland gUG, which had found the unseaworthy and overcrowded fibreglass boat. MARE*GO was able to equip the occupants with life jackets and stabilise the boat. As the weather was threatening to deteriorate, the crew called the SEA-EYE 4 for assistance, which arrived at the scene after a journey of around two hours. On arrival, the boat was unable to reach a safe port under its own power. At around 22:30, the SEA-EYE 4 successfully completed the rescue operation and evacuated all the people.

“When we arrived, we found the boat overcrowded and unsuitable for crossing the Mediterranean. There were 52 people on board, most of them from Syria. Our rapid arrival at the scene was crucial, as the weather conditions deteriorated significantly during the night. Although we have vulnerable people on board who need a safe place now, we were assigned Ravenna as our port of call – which means five more days in the Mediterranean for the survivors before we are finally allowed to dock”, says Julie Schweickert, head of mission on board the SEA-EYE 4.

“Of the 52 people rescued, two were initially unable to get on board independently due to severe pain and had to be lifted out of the lifeboat using a rescue seat; fortunately, the initial suspicion of head or spinal injuries was not confirmed during the examination in the on-board hospital, and their condition improved over time with pain medication. Several other patients also complained of painful bruises sustained during the rough crossing in the overcrowded boat. Due to the bad weather and high waves, many of those rescued also suffer from seasickness. Fortunately, the health checks carried out so far, which we will complete during the course of the day, have not revealed any other serious illnesses”, adds Dr. Daniela Klein, on-board doctor on the SEA-EYE 4 for German Doctors e.V.

The Italian authorities have assigned the SEA-EYE 4 to the port of Ravenna in the Emilia-Romagna region, around 900 nautical miles away, for disembarkation. The sea rescue ship is expected to arrive there on Saturday.

Ein rotes Schiff fährt im Meer. Auf dem Steuerbord steht der Schriftzug "#LeaveNoOneToDie".

In the ongoing court proceedings, the allegations were deemed not proven

On May 14 2024, the SEA-EYE 4 set off on its mission from the port of Taranto, Italy. The Italian authorities had detained the rescue ship for 60 days and Sea-Eye e.V. filed an appeal against this. This is the longest administrative detention so far imposed on a sea rescue vessel under the so-called Piantedosi Decree. Following an initial hearing, the allegations that the crew of the SEA-EYE 4 did not follow the instructions of the so-called Libyan coastguard were deemed not proven by the presiding judge. The final decision is still pending.

“The fact that the presiding judge considers the allegations that led to our detention to be not proven shows that this is a politically motivated measure with no legal basis. Despite all the difficulties caused by the Italian government’s policy, we continue to fulfil our humanitarian responsibility, thanks, above all, to the active support we receive every day from private and institutional donors, as well as volunteers and full-time staff on shore and on board!”, emphasises Gorden Isler, Chairman of Sea-Eye e.V.

Daniela Klein, a doctor from German Doctors and part of the crew on the SEA-EYE 4 for the fifth time, adds: “Since my first mission in 2021, the situation for people fleeing war, torture, poverty, and rape has not improved, but, on the contrary, has worsened considerably. There are more and more dramatic rescue missions, civilian sea rescuers are massively constricted in their work by regulatory measures, and people continue to drown in the Mediterranean. My drive and motivation therefore remain unchanged: to oppose this shameful and outrageous policy, and, as a member of the crew, to help save refugees in distress from drowning at sea, and to provide them with medical assistance.”

The Piantedosi Decree, which was introduced at the beginning of 2023, makes the work of civilian sea rescuers considerably more difficult. As an example, it stipulates that rescue ships must head directly to a specified harbour after a mission and may not respond to any further distress calls. Alleged violations are penalised with fines and detentions. The reason the Italian authorities gave for the detention of the SEA-EYE 4 in March 2024 was that on March 7, the ship did not follow the instructions of the so-called Libyan Coast Guard, which was pointing weapons at the rescue boat, and did not hand people seeking protection over to them. The SEA-EYE 4 rescued a total of 84 people indistress at sea during the operation. It was only in February of this year that Italy’s highest court of appeal classified the handover of people to the so-called Libyan coastguard as a criminal offence, as Libya is in the midst of a civil war and due to serious human rights violations such as torture, slavery, rape, and arbitrary executions is not a safe place.

The Piantedosi Decree has already resulted in the arrest of numerous sea rescue ships. Meanwhile, according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), more than 730 people have drowned or disappeared in the Mediterranean in 2024 so far.