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.


Ship sponsorship enables further mission despite declining donations

The rescue ship SEA-EYE 4 has left Trapani for the central Mediterranean. The fifth rescue mission this year was made possible to a large extent by the city of Bochum, which took over a ship sponsorship for the SEA-EYE 4 rescue ship in July. The sponsorship includes funding made up of budget money from the city (€ 30.000) as well as donations from the civilian population (€ 37.714, as of Aug. 30, 2022). In total, the “Bochum Saves” campaign thus resulted in funding of € 67.714, which was used for the mission preparations of the SEA-EYE 4.

Bochum’s support came at the right time. We are currently experiencing a simultaneity of various crises, which has also led to an overall decline in donations for Sea-Eye. Bochum has shown how local commitment can find a way out of the solidarity crisis at the EU’s external borders. We hope that many more municipalities will join in,” says Gorden Isler, chairman of Sea-Eye e. V.

In the summer months, a particularly large number of people dare to flee the civil war country of Libya. In Tripoli, fights broke out again over the weekend in the wake of a conflict between Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah and former Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha, resulting in numerous deaths.

Dr. Angelika Leist, German Doctors mission physician and ship’s doctor, accompanies the current Sea-Eye mission: „I am involved on the Sea-Eye 4 because it must not be that people fleeing from a life not worth living are put in danger of their lives and no official authority helps them. Of course, civil emergency rescue can only be a temporary solution. Actually, the EU countries should jointly organize a sea rescue and not commission the so-called Libyan coast guard with push-backs.

Angelika von German Doctors

In principle, of course, it would be desirable if the Western countries, together with the countries of origin, ensured that the living conditions on the ground become such that people no longer have to flee. But as long as this is not the case, I am happy to be able to help as a German Doctors mission doctor. My last medical mission in the refugee camps on Thessaloniki certainly helps me to understand the guests on board the Sea-Eye 4 and their moving causes better,“ says Leist.

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.

Sea-Eye criticizes unequal treatment of people seeking protection

After the 476 refugees had spent a week in cramped quarters on the SEA-EYE 4, disembarkation began today, 22.06.2022, in Messina. Yesterday, the Italian Coast Guard had assigned Messina as a port of safety to the SEA-EYE 4.

The crew of the SEA-EYE 4 had rescued 494 fleeing people from various boats in distress during the previous week. While waiting for a port, 18 people had to be evacuated from the ship for medical reasons. The people had fled the Libyan civil war in unseaworthy boats. However, many had previously fled their countries of origin. The people come from 23 different countries of origin. Among them Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Mali or Syria.

There are also long-term armed conflicts or even wars in countries such as Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Libya, Mali or Syria. Currently, however, there are only safe passages to the EU for people fleeing Ukraine. People from all other countries of origin must continue to risk dying at European borders for the chance of safety and an asylum process. This is clearly structural racism. We need safe passages for all people seeking protection, no matter what the color of their skin or the tyrants they are fleeing,” says Gorden Isler, chairman of Sea-Eye e. V.

Medical Evacuation

Italian coast guard evacuates four people

The SEA-EYE 4, whose crew rescued 494* people from distress at sea during the week, arrived in Sicily on Friday morning, June 17. Due to the large number of people, it is difficult for the three-person medical team to provide adequate care to all persons. While the majority of people are in stable condition, there are many patients who require more comprehensive medical care. The Italian Coast Guard therefore evacuated four people from the ship at noon on Friday due to their health condition.

One patient who was evacuated is eight months pregnant, but has complications and can no longer feel her baby. She also has burns on her legs. Another person has a broken hand and needs an X-ray and further treatment. One person with epilepsy ran out of long-term medication. A fourth evacuated person is suffering from severe burns.

Overall, several patients have burns and some patients had inhaled fumes from fuel on the boats. Many patients are in physical discomfort as a result. Some people show signs of severe exhaustion and even trauma. Other patients were treated for hypothermia. After the evacuation of a pregnant woman, two pregnant women are now still on board. One woman is eight months pregnant and one woman is four months pregnant. Their condition is currently stable.

Medical Evacuation

With such a high number of vulnerable people on board, there is also a high demand for medical care, which our medical team cannot cover on its own in the long term. Thanks to our cooperation with the Bonn-based aid organization German Doctors, we are very well positioned for first aid and emergency situations – but not all further treatments and necessary examinations can be carried out in our onboard hospital. Currently, for example, we are treating many people with wounds and burns caused by contact with a salt-water fuel mixture in the boats, so that our dressing material is running low. To avoid further medical evacuations, all people on board need a port of safety and medical assistance as soon as possible,” said Gorden Isler, Chairman of Sea-Eye e. V.

Medical Evacuation

*Note: On June 15, the total number of rescued was reported as 492. A later count recorded 494 people. Due to today’s evacuation of four patients there are currently 490 rescued people on board SEA-EYE 4.


76 people rescued from sinking rubber boat

After the SEA-EYE 4 had already rescued 416 people in three rescues, the rescue ship was again notified of a maritime emergency on Wednesday evening, June 16, 2022. The organization Alarm Phone already reported to authorities that the boat was damaged in the first distress call, water was entering and people were calling for help. When the rescue ship reached the scene of the accident, there was hardly any air left in the tubes. With lights, the people tried to draw attention to themselves at night.

“The people were very lucky that the SEA-EYE 4 was less than three hours away at the time of the distress call and that they were still found in time during the night,” says Gorden Isler, chairman of Sea-Eye e. V.

The difficult rescue operation dragged on until midnight. Sea-Eye’s rescue boats brought 76 people onto the SEA-EYE 4.

Many of the people rescued during the night have chemical burns and therefore have to be treated in the SEA-EYE 4’s onboard hospital. This happens when fuel leaks from the rubber boats and mixes with seawater, because it creates a corrosive mixture that severely burns the skin. Those rescued also suffer from hypothermia, dehydration and severe exhaustion.


Many of the people rescued during the night have chemical burns and therefore have to be treated in the SEA-EYE 4’s onboard hospital. This happens when fuel leaks from the rubber boats and mixes with seawater, because it creates a corrosive mixture that severely burns the skin. Those rescued also suffer from hypothermia, dehydration and severe exhaustion.

The SEA-EYE 4 is now in search of a port of safety with 492 rescued people.

“The civilian aid organizations AlarmPhone and Sea-Eye prevented a serious disaster tonight. Again, there were no reactions from state actors. The so-called Libyan Coast Guard did not react at all and this is not an isolated case. This is exactly why there are so many survivors on the SEA-EYE 4 once again, for whom we urgently need a safe place to disembark now. According to international law, this place can only be in Europe,” says Isler.

The people rescued tonight must now come ashore quickly after receiving initial treatment on board in order to receive adequate further treatment. It is shocking that the rescue continues to depend on NGOs like us and also on the luck that sea rescuers are just nearby. The EU must finally work together to find a humane solution,” said Dr. Harald Kischlat, Chairman of German Doctors e. V.

The Bonn-based aid organization provides substantial support for the operation of the onboard hospital and regularly provides German Doctors for the missions to ensure initial medical care on the SEA EYE 4.


So-called Libyan Coast Guard obstructs rescue operations and abducts people back to Libya

The crew of the SEA-EYE 4 rescued 416 people from distress at sea with three missions in two days. Last Monday afternoon, June 13, the rescue ship came to the aid of 63 people, including 30 minors and a baby, when they were in distress in an rubber boat while fleeing across the Mediterranean Sea. Today, Wednesday morning, June 15, the crew arrived at a large, heavily overcrowded wooden boat. Many of the occupants were huddled below deck. The crew evacuated the wooden boat and safely brought all 290 people, including 19 minors, aboard the SEA-EYE 4. On Wednesday afternoon, the crew found another rubber boat and rescued 63 people, including 13 minors.


During the rescue on Wednesday morning, the so-called Libyan Coast Guard was present and observed the rescue operation. When it was completed, the so-called Libyan Coast Guard approached and towed away the wooden boat.

Also on Wednesday morning, the Spanish rescue ship AITA MARI arrived not far from the position of SEA-EYE 4 to a maritime emergency with over 100 people fleeing in an overcrowded rubber boat. However, the operation was disrupted by the so-called Libyan Coast Guard. 17 people who had jumped into the water were rescued by the crew of the AITA MARI. The people who remained on the rubber boat were forced onto their vessel by the so-called Libyan Coast Guard and abducted to Libya.


Today we had to observe once again how dangerously the so-called Libyan Coast Guard acts. Financed by EU states, the so-called Libyan Coast Guard abducts fleeing people to a country of civil war, where they are exposed to the most severe human rights violations. It is well known that there are links between the so-called Libyan Coast Guard and the traffickers. Against the background of all knowledge about the so-called Libyan Coast Guard, it is a crime against humanity to cooperate with such dangerous actors. Therefore, the EU does not deserve the Nobel Peace Prize, just as these militias don’t deserve the title “coast guard”. Any cooperation with the so-called Libyan Coast Guard must finally be stopped by the European side,” says Gorden Isler, chairman of Sea-Eye e. V.

On the Mediterranean Sea, in the shadow of the media coverage around the Ukraine war, no less dramatic scenes are taking place. People who jump into the water out of fear of a so-called Coast Guard and risk their lives on the run – politics must finally put an end to this! It is deeply irritating that we as the EU obviously continue to accept the possible death of children, women and men who flee across the Mediterranean from poverty and violence in their countries of origin,” said Harald Kischlat, Board German Doctors e. V.


There are now 416 people on board the SEA-EYE 4 for whom a safe place to disembark is needed. The crew and medical staff are taking care of the people.


Number of distress calls to AlarmPhone increases throughout Mediterranean region

The SEA-EYE 4 departed Burriana on Saturday (04.06.2022) for its third rescue mission in 2022. The alliance ship is expected to reach the operational area in the central Mediterranean Sea on Thursday evening. Since the ship became operational in May 2021, crews have saved more than 1,600 people from drowning.

From January to the end of May 2022, the organization AlarmPhone has already received 339 distress calls from people in acute danger of life at sea. In the same period in 2021, there were 286 distress calls. In 2020, there were 225. (Source: AlarmPhone)

More than 700 people have died in the Mediterranean this year, according to the IOM. In the summer months, particularly many people tried to escape the civil war in Libya in recent years. This is because there are significantly fewer periods of bad weather during these months.

Captain of SEA-EYE 4

We have to realize again that this is not a normal state. That every day people are calling for help, that people are drowning regularly and that there is no European state sea rescue program that brings the necessary equipment to end the dying in the Mediterranean. The EU states allow another deadly year just like that and also the new federal government remained so far inactive and lets the drowning continue. Actually, after so many months, everyone in Berlin should now have found their place and know what needs to be done,” says Gorden Isler, chairman of Sea-Eye e. V.


Joint press release by Sea-Eye, German Doctors, Refugee Rescue and United4Rescue

Organisations demand: EU states must end policy of deterrence immediately

On Saturday, 21.05.22, the preliminary hearing against 21 sea rescuers will begin in Trapani, Sicily. They are accused of “aiding and abetting unauthorised entry into Italy”. Numerous organisations express their solidarity with the defendants in the run-up to the trial. On Saturday, a day of action in Germany will take place, where Sea-Eye groups as well as activists from Seebrücke and other organisations will take to the streets.

On the occasion of the preliminary hearing Sea-Eye, German Doctors, Refugee Rescue and United4Rescue, who conduct sea rescue operations as partner organisations with the rescue ship SEA-EYE 4, have published a joint statement.

Joint Statement:

21 sea rescuers have been criminally charged for saving people from drowning. These measures must never become the normality. It must always hurt us deeply in our hearts, because otherwise, we lose nothing less than the human right to life.

At the preliminary hearing on the 21st of May, 2022, the sea rescuers will sit in the dock as a deterrent because Trapani is not about “aiding and abetting unauthorised entry into Italy”. The entire process with its 5-year investigation pursues only one goal: deterrence. Its aim would be that seafarers think twice before rescuing fleeing people from distress at sea.

After EU member states ceased their sea rescue operations in the Mediterranean in 2015, they began to block or obstruct the life-saving work of sea rescue organisations. Thus, rescue ships were detained and the disembarkation of rescued people was delayed or denied. The fact that European rescue coordination centres ignore distress calls from people in distress at sea and refuse their duty to coordinate rescue operations has become a sad reality.

All these measures are part of a cruel policy of closure that does not shy away from criminalising and prosecuting sea rescuers. The 21 defendants face up to 20 years in prison and a fine of €15,000 per rescued person.

Sea-Eye, German Doctors, Refugee Rescue and United4Rescue strongly oppose this inhumane policy of deterrence and demand the immediate termination of the proceedings against the accused sea rescuers.

Furthermore, it’s not only sea rescuers that are on the European dock. Again and again, refugees in Italy, Greece and other EU countries are accused of “aiding and abetting unauthorised entry into Italy”. In Italy alone, at least 2,500 people have been detained since 2013.

Therefore we demand that the detained refugees be released and that EU member states immediately end their anti-human course of isolation and deterrence. The EU must finally support and protect people on the run instead of criminalising them and locking them up in overcrowded camps.

To put an end to the deaths in the Mediterranean, Sea-Eye, German Doctors, Refugee Rescue and United4Rescue call for the introduction of a European sea rescue programme and the creation of legal and safe passages.

Sea-Eye, German Doctors, Refugee Rescue and United4Rescue