We talk a lot about refugees. Rarely do we talk to and with them.

A commentary by Sophie Weidenhiller, spokeswoman of Sea-Eye e. V.

Whenever I write texts like this one, it is because I have a strong emotional reaction to something I experience. This time, like many times before, my public plea comes from talking to a young Syrian refugee, who I have met aboard a Sea-Eye ship. Let’s call him Adil*. When we talk, I get to see a different world, a different side of the same world actually. I have an EU passport, he does not and he probably never will. Adil has experienced trauma, like I never have and probably never will. We get along well though. We don’t even speak the same language and Google-translate is our best buddy, who makes me laugh often at the irony of situational humor due to using such apps.

Sophie Weidenhiller, spokeswoman for Sea-Eye

Adil is funny too, he showed me some of the music he likes to listen to, he likes to cook milk-rice for everyone and he would like to cook for me too. He is smart, he wanted to study at a university in Syria, but then the war made that impossible. When I told him I am sorry that he couldn’t study, like I did, he said: “Don’t be – it’s OK because no one can study there anymore”. For him, I shouldn’t be sorry just for him, because his whole country is suffering.

I cannot tell you how many times I was left speechless and in awe of the different perspectives and ideas I got and how much I have learned from talking to various refugees I have met over the years. It’s astounding how little and yet how very much we have in common. How we can laugh together without speaking the same tongue, how we can understand each other, even without words, and how hugs can feel so very comforting, even between complete strangers. And yes, I still judge and I have my prejudices about some people, as with all people. But I have noticed that whenever I sit down with someone and I just listen to their incredibly honest stories and views, it is usually quite enlightening. And it also shows me my own shortcomings, as well as the ones of European policy-makers.

From a eurocentric and privileged point of view, some of our strategies might seem like they make sense when in reality, they are not only incredibly unethical but also completely ineffective.

I am more specifically talking about the politics of deterrence and warding the EU off, the attempt at closing our borders and trying to deter people from fleeing by way of making flight seem dangerous and potentially lethal. We think by creating barbed wire fences, high walls, push-back agencies, surveillance, and use of excessive force, we could prevent people from leaving for European shores and grounds. Nothing could be farther from the truth. This utterly unethical practice is not working. Here’s why:


Europe tries to warn people and stop them from leaving for Europe by showing them if you try to get here, you could end up at the bottom of the ocean, shot dead in the sand, or frozen to death in a forest.

But have we ever asked how people who are on the move or plan to flee perceive such threats? Do you know what their answer is to this cruel warning? I can tell you what I’ve heard time and time again as a response to this:

I know I could die, but I’d rather die en route to freedom than continue suffering where I am.

Another version of the same attitude, that was told to me was:

There is no life here – even death is better than this hell.

As a person with a psychotherapeutic background, I must say these attitudes and acts of flight almost carry an air of “para- or quasi-suicidal” acts. That means that the people who attempt to flee, knowing full well that there’s a great risk for the loss of their own life, are so desperate that they consciously, albeit in acute and severe distress, choose that risk. For some of them, tragically, death on the way seems almost like a kind of salvation because it would mean an end to their perpetual suffering, which most of them have endured for years and that they could maybe meet some of the loved ones that they’ve lost in the afterlife. Of course these people do not actually want to die, but if the only choice that they’re left with is death or suffering – they make the only choice available to them.


Another aspect I have heard is that some persons state they feel like “my soul has already died long ago, I do not fear death anymore, because I already feel dead inside”. Or like Adil put it “The last thing I fear is death. (…) I wish I could die when I pray.” He also added: “If you want to understand my words look at the videos of Muslim mothers and fathers in Syria, whose entire family was murdered in front of their eyes, and she [the mother] thanks God and cries and says she will return to them.

This is one of the key psychological reasons why people will not be stopped by politics of deterrence. The desperation refugees face today is so substantial, so all-encompassing, so unfathomable for all of us who live here in Europe and carry EU passports. We cannot begin to imagine the horrors these persons have faced and so we belittle their experiences by taking their hope and their choices from them, leaving them with rejection and death, as the only options. If we want to handle migration well, we first need to understand what people actually go through and how they think and feel, which requires us to talk to them and listen, and – as sad as it is that this has to be mentioned – to treat them like actual human beings, and not just an ever-increasing number of collateral damage, measured in human remains.

Refugee Baby

This is the state of things for refugees today from what I gathered from many conversations with people who had to flee – and it is deeply disturbing. I therefore urge the European politicians to end their unethical policies, because again – not only are they inhumane, they also do not work. What they do is create mass graves, waves of desperation leading to suicide, and generations of traumatized survivors. If we want to solve this problem, we need to give people hope and assistance, instead of additional trauma and hurdles.

How many more deaths will it take for European politicians to finally stop this madness? This system is not working, and it is killing people by the thousands. We need to stop neglecting the realities of people who are fleeing and we must stop the dying, immediately!

* To protect his privacy

SEA-EYE 4: Refugees

About the brutal attacks of EU states on fleeing people

A commentary by Axel Pasligh. Political Scientist and Head of Communications at Sea-Eye e. V.

The SEA-EYE 4 set sail from Burriana, Spain, on May 8 for its first rescue mission, which ended in Pozzallo, Sicily, on May 22. The Sea-Eye crew succeeded in bringing over 400 people, including 150 children, to safety.

The fact that this civilian rescue mission was necessary at all is due to the EU states not running state rescue missions for years. They use drowning as a weapon to let people die on the flight. In addition, they employ the so-called Libyan Coast Guard to intercept people fleeing a civil war and return them to internment camps.

In 2017, the German Foreign Office described conditions in Libyan camps as similar to those in concentration camps. Despite many similar reports, EU states have long supported the forced returns of the so-called Libyan coast guard by transmitting coordinates of boats with protection seekers to Libya. Thus, Germany also participates in the forced returns to camps similar to concentration camps, which are known for torture, slavery, rape and arbitrary executions.

SEA-EYE 4: Gerettete

At the same time, we see Spanish soldiers beating defenseless people without restraint on the beach of Ceuta. To deport the people seeking protection, among them unaccompanied minors, immediately afterwards, without giving them a chance to apply for asylum. Video footage shows people falling off rocks into the sea under the beating of the forces.


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In the meter-high border fence, equipped with barbed wire and modern surveillance technology, that separates the Spanish exclave from Morocco, we see the architectural implementation of EU policy against people fleeing. Where the EU states cannot separate themselves by the Mediterranean, they barricade themselves as if there were marauding hordes on the other side and not families with children seeking help.

When the neighboring countries of the EU states, like recently Morocco or last year Turkey, no longer do the dirty work for the EU and let people seeking protection come to the border, we see the same picture again and again. European policemen and soldiers beat the defenseless people.

The EU states do not want refugees on European soil. That is why they build border fences, beat refugees, let them drown, send them back to internment camps or build slum camps themselves where children are gnawed on by rats. EU states no longer recognize flight and the search for safety as human rights. Their goal instead is: The destruction of flight to Europe.

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SEA-EYE 4: Refugees

All rescued people of the SEA-EYE 4 have gone ashore

On May 22, the crew was able to say goodbye to the last of the more than 400 rescued people in the port of Pozzallo and successfully complete the first rescue mission. However, the reception was anything but warm.

SEA-EYE 4: Refugees

SEA-EYE 4: The first rescue mission

The first rescue mission of the SEA-EYE 4 has ended successfully. We have summarized the events of this special mission in a video and we have one request.

Rescue Boat

Reconnecting with Raissa and her baby, rescued by the ALAN KURDI two years ago

Raissa, a refugee from Cameroon, was rescued from a dinghy in distress in the Mediterranean sea by Sea-Eye crew. She was in her last trimester of pregnancy, and when the crew pulled her out of the water, she was unconscious and unable to walk or talk. Eventually, she recovered, and gave birth to a healthy baby girl after she disembarked. Read about her story and help save more refugees’ lives.

Raissa* has fled war, violence, assault and abuse in her home country of Cameroon. But her harrowing journey to Europe was equally perilous: as a single, vulnerable refugee woman, she was a victim of maltreatment by smugglers and ended up forcibly imprisoned in a Libyan detention center as she was trying to flee. She was held captive and abused for over a year.

“I fled the chaos of war and violence, and I was so stressed out that I barely knew where I was going,” Raissa told us.

Tortured, beaten up, malnourished and confused, Raissa found out that she was pregnant. During an airstrike, frequent in war-torn Libya, Raissa managed to escape the detention center. A local man who saw that she was pregnant took pity on her and helped her embark on a dinghy bound for Europe.

But Raissa’s unseaworthy dinghy began to capsize only 24 hours into their journey, with dozens of other people on board. If the ALAN KURDI hadn’t come to their rescue, all of the passengers might have died.

“I was so sick, confused and hurt that I didn’t know what was happening to me, and I lost consciousness when the ALAN KURDI rescued me,” Raissa told us.


When she recovered, Raissa had only one hope: to build a decent life for her unborn child and find a place free from violence and abuse.

Vera, a volunteer nurse aboard the ALAN KURDI, recalled that when Raissa was rescued, she was 8 months pregnant, fading in and out of consciousness, and shaking heavily.

“Later, when she started to feel better, she started hugging me and kept on calling me ‘Mama Vera’. I was incredibly touched by this and it was a great honor to me,” Vera said.

Sophie, another volunteer aboard the ship, remembered that Raissa always helped to take care of the other children on board.

“I knew she would make a great mom,” Sophie said.

In spite of all of the hardships she had faced, Raissa’s baby, a beautiful little girl, was born in Europe, healthy and full of life, shortly after she disembarked. Thanks to the work of the Sea-Eye, Raissa and her little baby survived.

Sophie recalled: “When I first received a picture of Raissa’s baby, my heart was filled with joy: that perfect little girl is alive and well! That’s all I have been praying for. They are alive thanks to people who still care, thanks to the people who support civil sea rescue; people like you who are reading this story right now.”

Today, Raissa and her daughter live in a refugee camp in Portugal, and even though they are still facing many difficulties, they are alive, healthy, and safe.

Raissa mit ihrer Tochter

“God sent the Sea-Eye crew on my way, and to this day, those who rescued me are my only family in Europe – they are the only ones who showed me some kindness along the way,” Raissa says today. “I only wish that they will always keep their love for refugees and the kindness they have in their hearts.”

Help support Sea-Eye and their ships ALAN KURDI and SEA-EYE 4 to carry out more life-saving work, and show your love, compassion, consideration and care for refugees’ lives.

Help us protect women and children like Raissa and her baby. Do not let them drown.

Peaceful holidays to all of our supporters!
Thank you.

Story written by: Sara Cincurova, freelance journalist covering human rights.

*The name and sensitive details of her story have been redacted for her safety

Rescued people with blankets in Olbia

An article by Stefano Lotumolo on the arrival of ALAN KURDI in Olbia

We learn about the news of ALAN KURDI’s landing from Facebook on Thursday evening (24/09/2020). We read many racist comments under the post reporting the news.

I look at my girlfriend and say, “Okay, we can’t miss it.

We wake up at 5:30 a.m., ALAN KURDI’s arrival is scheduled for 6:00 a.m. The weather is bad, which is the reason why ALAN KURDI is not continuing its course to Marseille and is allowed to dock in Olbia.

Around 9 o’clock a miserable bunch of Lega supporters and neo fascists arrives.

The ALAN KURDI docks at 10:00 am.

Take them to your home” they are yelling at us, with their arrogant and intolerant attitude.

They do their show for the ritual photos; Showing off is the only thing that matters to them.

They want to protect the Italian borders from 125 people seeking protection who are fleeing from war, fished out by ALAN KURDI’s angels in the Mediterranean Sea in 3 different rescue operations.

Arrival of ALAN KURDI in Olbia

Almost half of the migrants are minors.

The youngest is 5 months old.

We greet the frightened men and women and try to understand what is going to happen.

The setting up of the tents starts at around 12 o’clock.

Why couldn’t it be done earlier? We were there from 6:00 am in the morning.

The wind is strong, sometimes it turns into a storm and people are forced to stay on the ship.

They start disembarking at around 6:00 pm, there are women sitting on the ground with their children.

It is cold.

Most of them are barefoot.

They look at us, we look at them. I feel guilty. Awfully guilty.

Rescued people and police in Olbia

I wish I were on that ship; I would like to tell them that everything will be all right and that in a little while, finally everything will be over.

But unfortunately, that is not the case.

For the night, a reception center is set up outside the industrial port, they would stay there.

Welcome to Olbia

We go back on Saturday to have news and we manage to interview the Chief Officer Josh, who welcomes us with “open arms” from behind a railing.


From the poem Homeby Warsan Shire, a young Kenyan writer and poetess.

Today no one cares about the news anymore.

Arrival in Olbia

But how much do we really care about these people?

Or do they only make the news one day and disappear the next day?

“But how much do we really care about these people?”

Many of them are unaccompanied minors, children who arrive in an unknown land without their parents after experiencing no one knows what tragedies.

“Dear haters, look who you have poured your hatred on.”

Dear haters, look who you have poured your hatred on.

The most vulnerable people of this unjust world.

On Sunday evening we manage to bring pizzas to the whole crew.

A great honor for us.

Being able to document the landing just before my next experience was a great sign. I am about to begin a silent walk that will take me from Assisi to Riace where I will meet Domenico Lucano.

Domenico, the former mayor of Riace, has created a model of integration for migrants that has been recognized all over the world.

It is now up to Europe to find solutions, including for hotspots in Greece. We need precise rules.

We are all the same, there are no first or second-class human beings.

Love generates Love.
Love generates positive feelings.
Love generates life.

Have a good life, everyone.

With love.

The Author: Stefano Lotumolo

With a diploma in accounting, he worked as a floriculturist in the family business until the age of 28. In 2015 he left his safe harbor to start travelling, getting to know himself and the world.

In June 2017 he embarked on his first photographic journey, three months backpacking in Africa. From there, his life changed completely. Through photography he wants people to see human beings the way he sees them through his eyes, and he perceives them with his heart.

He wants to transmit the same love and respect he has for life.

Through photography Stefano wants to be a voice for the voiceless, tell stories of real life and the various vicissitudes of the people he shares his life experiences with.

Photos in this article: © Stefano Lotumolo