Festsetzung Free the Fleet

Joint press release by United4Rescue, Sea-Watch, SOS Humanity and Sea-Eye

Within the last week, the Italian government has detained three NGO rescue ships flying the German flag. The Humanity 1, the Sea-Watch 5 and the Sea-Eye 4 are being prevented from carrying out their life-saving work on the basis of false accusations. For the first time, the Italian government has blocked one of the ships, the Sea-Eye 4, for 60 days, marking an escalation of its actions against the civil fleet.

In a new wave of detentions, the Italian government has blocked the rescue ships Humanity 1, Sea-Watch 5 and Sea-Eye 4 – after rescuing over 390 people in total. All three ships are part of the United4Rescue alliance supported by the German Protestant Church and over 900 partners. The 60-day detention of the Sea-Eye 4 represents an escalation of the obstruction of the civil fleet. Together with the 20-day detentions of the Sea-Watch 5 and the Humanity 1, the rescue ships are being actively kept out of the Mediterranean for a total of 100 days. Since January 2023, nine ships of the civil fleet have been detained a total of 19 times by the Italian authorities.

Each of the three current detentions is based on false accusations and unlawful demands. The Italian authorities falsely refer to uncooperative behavior by the ships’ crews towards the so-called Libyan coast guard. Yet all detentions were preceded by attempts by the so-called Libyan Coast Guard to force people in distress at sea back to Libya in violation of international law. In two cases – Humanity 1 and Sea-Eye 4 – the crews were threatened with weapons. A 17-year-old boy died on board the Sea-Watch 5 after all coastal states refused a medical evacuation.

Italy is trying by all means to stop the humanitarian operations of sea rescue organizations. The detentions are an act of political violence against tens of thousands of refugees fleeing across the Mediterranean to seek protection in Europe. We are fighting this with all legal means at our disposal, because in addition to the detentions, our rescue ship is even threatened with permanent confiscation,” says Gorden Isler, Chairman of Sea-Eye e.V.

“This escalation represents a new level of criminalisation of civil sea rescue by Italy! The aim is to impede the work of the rescue organisations by any means possible. Yet every day of the detention costs human lives. We are deeply concerned about this development and as United4Rescue we stand behind every single ship with our alliance of over 900 organisations. Together we demand the immediate release of the ships!”, says Sandra Bils, board member of United4Rescue.

Co-operation with the so-called Libyan coast guard in illegal ‘pullbacks’ to Libya violates international maritime and human rights law. Libya is not a safe place for people rescued from distress at sea, as was recently confirmed once again by Italy’s highest court. At the same time, by supporting the so-called Libyan coast guard, the European Union and its member states are complicit in the most serious human rights violations at sea and in Libyan detention centers.

SOS Humanity, Sea-Watch and Sea-Eye are taking legal action against the unlawful detention of their rescue ships. The so-called Piantedosi Law, on the basis of which the ships are detained, even provides for the seizure of civil rescue ships in the event of repeated detentions.


60 days detention for preventing an illegal pushback

After rescuing a total of 145 people from distress at sea during two operations on 7 and 8 March, Italian authorities detained the ship SEA-EYE 4 for 60 days on 11 March and fined it 3,333 euros. The reasoning behind this is not tenable, as the SEA-EYE 4 is not permitted under international law to take part in a pushback to the civil war country of Libya. This would have been the case if it had interrupted its advanced rescue operation and handed over the 84 people seeking protection to the so-called Libyan coastguard, which had approached with weapons at the ready. Italy is once again de facto penalising rescue ships for complying with international law. Sea-Eye will once again take legal action against the blockade, as it has done in previous cases.

Italy’s top appeals court only confirmed in February this year that pushbacks to Libya are illegal under international law, thereby confirming the criminal conviction of a captain who brought refugees back to Libya in 2018. People seeking protection must not be returned to a years-long, cruel civil war from which they fled. The list of serious human rights violations (e.g. torture, slavery, rape, arbitrary executions) to which refugees are subjected there is long.

Italy is now penalising the SEA-EYE 4 and two other German sea rescue vessels that have already been detained for not following the instructions of the so-called Libyan coastguard. However, these instructions would have led to participation in pushbacks, as the so-called Libyan coastguard is taking the fleeing people back to the civil war. The illegality of this action is particularly evident in reports of human rights violations suffered by people after a pushback in Libya.

Although it is illegal and deeply inhumane to return people to a bloody conflict from which they have fled, Italy is demanding that German sea rescue organisations take part in precisely such operations. Our refusal to take part in these horrific abductions is penalised with ship blockades and fines. Yet only Germany, as the flag state, is authorised to sanction our ship for misconduct in international waters. Now that three German sea rescue ships have been detained in Italy, it is up to the German government to finally intervene and take political responsibility for the humanitarian missions of German rescue ships,” says Gorden Isler, Chairman of Sea-Eye e.V.

On 7 March, the SEA-EYE 4 was the first to find the distress case which led to the arrest and was unable to make contact with the so-called Libyan coastguard during the search. When the rescue was already at an advanced stage and people had been evacuated from the unseaworthy rubber boat, two coastguard vessels appeared at the scene and demanded that the operation be cancelled. The so-called Libyan coastguard aimed weapons at the crew of the rescue boat. The crew of the SEA-EYE 4 de-escalated the situation and brought all the people on their rescue ship to safety. On 10 March, all the people who had fled were able to go ashore in Reggio Calabria, where the SEA-EYE 4 is now detained. This is the longest administrative detention of a sea rescue ship under the Piantedosi Decree to date.

144 people urgently need a safe harbour

After a previous rescue of 84 people on Thursday morning (7 March 2024), the rescue ship SEA-EYE 4 was on its way to Ancona. Since then, two distress calls have interrupted the route to the assigned harbour: While the Italian Coast Guard was able to take over the rescue in the first case, the SEA-EYE 4 rescued 61 people under the most difficult conditions on Friday night. The emergency evacuation of a patient with fuel poisoning took place in the morning hours after a failed attempt at night. The situation on board remains critical, especially for two babies in a fragile condition. In light of these developments, the allocation of a closer safe harbour for the disembarkation of the now total of 144 survivors on board remains urgent.


The SEA-EYE 4 rescued 84 lives on Thursday morning and was on its way to Ancona. The Italian port city, four days away, had previously been assigned to the ship by the Italian authorities as a port for disembarking the 84 rescued people.

On Friday night (8 March 2024), the SEA-EYE 4 received another distress call via Alarmphone, which informed the authorities and the Sea-Eye rescue vessel of a call for help in the Maltese search and rescue zone. Head of Mission Julie Schweickert offered assistance to the Maltese authorities, but received no response. The Italian authorities authorised the SEA-EYE 4 to interrupt its route to Ancona in order to search for the boat in distress. Around midday on Friday (8 March 2024), the SEA-EYE 4 crew managed to find the boat with around 50 people on board. The Italian coastguard arrived at almost the same time, rescued the people and brought them to Lampedusa. The SEA-EYE 4 set course for the harbour of Ancona again. 

A few hours later, the SEA-EYE 4 received another distress call via Alarmphone. It was again a position in the Maltese search and rescue zone. As before, the Maltese rescue coordination centre could not be contacted by the SEA-EYE head of mission Julie Schweickert. With the Italian rescue coordination centre coordinating again and with permission to interrupt the approach to Ancona once more, the SEA-EYE 4 changed course in the opposite direction and the crew began the search. After around 5 hours, the boat was found in difficult conditions.

“There were 61 people in an unseaworthy wooden boat, which was taking on a lot of water due to the waves crashing over it and was in danger of capsizing. The swell made the entire rescue a huge challenge. But our lifeboat team was able to rescue everyone safely,” says Julie Schweickert, Head of Mission on board the SEA-EYE 4.

Following the rescue of 61 people, there are now 144 survivors from two maritime emergencies on board and the safe harbour of Ancona is still 4 days away. The hospital team from German Doctors e.V. and Sea-Eye e.V. is working constantly.

“We had a patient who was in very poor health. He had to be supplied with oxygen and had a body temperature of just 32 degrees. The patient was suffering from fuel poisoning because he must have inhaled too much petrol fumes. During the night, Malta sent a helicopter to evacuate the patient to Malta. However, the evacuation, which took place in difficult weather conditions, was cancelled by the pilot. It was only on Saturday morning that the crew of an Italian helicopter managed to fly the patient out to Italy,” says Dr Gerd Klausen, on-board doctor for German Doctors on board the SEA-EYE 4, adding: “We are very worried about two babies who are still not drinking well. Both are very weak. They are six and twelve months old. One baby has a fever.”

The SEA-EYE 4 resumed its course and its journey to the port of Ancona on Saturday morning (09.03.2024). However, due to several maritime emergencies since Thursday, the ship has not yet come much closer to the port of Ancona.

“84 rescued people, including families with children and babies, have already spent two nights on board. Now 61 more people have joined them. One person has been evacuated. We are now urging Italy to assign us a closer harbour. The weather will change in the next 48 hours. A rescue ship is not the right place to accommodate so many vulnerable people for up to 6 days and nights. We really urgently need the nearest safe harbour to disembark all the survivors,” says Jan Ribbeck, Director of Mission, of the ongoing operation for Sea-Eye e.V.


Sea-Eye crew threatened with Libyan weapons during rescue

The crew of the SEA-EYE 4 rescued another 84 people from distress at sea on Thursday morning during the first mission of the current year. The so-called Libyan coast guard, acting aggressively, endangered the rescue operation and aimed weapons at the ship’s rescue boat.

At around 10 a.m., the Sea-Eye rescue vessel received a distress call from Alarmphone, which informed the relevant authorities and the SEA-EYE 4 about the call for help from a rubber boat. The SEA-EYE 4 crew located the people calling for help within an hour. The Head of Mission asked the Italian authorities to coordinate the distress at sea. However, the Italian authorities insisted that Libya was responsible, even though, according to their own statements, no communication with the Libyan authorities was possible at the time. They asked Head of Mission Julie Schweickert to continue trying in Libya herself. However, this was unsuccessful.

In the meantime, the crew members of the MOCHARA rescue boat provided life jackets to the people on the rubber boat. Two people were rescued from the water by the crew of the rescue boat. A total of 84 people were evacuated onto the SEA-EYE 4. During the evacuation, two ships of the so-called Libyan Coast Guard approached at high speed. Head of Mission Julie Schweickert describes “super aggressive” behavior by the Libyans. During the rescue, the weapons of a Libyan ship were aimed at the crew of the rescue boat.

“It is unacceptable that our crew has to look down the barrel of a gun during their humanitarian work. The brutal and ruthless behavior of the so-called Libyan coast guard has nothing to do with sea rescue. Cooperation with these violent and armed militias must be stopped by the EU states before humanitarian aid workers come to harm,” demands Gorden Isler, Chairman of Sea-Eye e.V.

The joint medical team from German Doctors e.V. and Sea-Eye e.V. immediately began providing medical treatment and care for the rescued people.

“Among those rescued are numerous women and families with children. Four children are not even 2 years old. We had to provide one baby with oxygen for a short time. We are glad that we were able to stabilize the children quickly and save so many people,” says Dr Gerd Klausen, on-board doctor for German Doctors on the SEA-EYE 4.

Ammna Bhati, paediatric nurse from London (UK), added that “many people are hypothermic and need treatment.” 

In the afternoon, the Italian authorities directed the SEA-EYE 4 to the port of Ancona, some 800 nautical miles away. The ship will need around 4 days to get there and will therefore ask the Italian authorities for a closer port.

SEA-EYE 4 crew rescues 57 people. Two people did not survive the flight.

On Tuesday afternoon, Alarmphone informed the relevant authorities and the rescue ship SEA-EYE 4 of an emergency at sea. A boat with 59 people called for help in the Maltese search and rescue zone. The crew of the SEA-EYE 4 was able to find the boat on Tuesday evening after a five-hour search at around 7 pm.

It was an overcrowded, two-storey wooden boat. The initial assessment by the crew of the MOCHARA lifeboat revealed that four people were unconscious below deck. In order for the rescue crew to reach them, the people on the upper deck had to be evacuated first. In the end, two people could only be rescued dead.

As the state of health of other people deteriorated drastically, the head of operations, Julie Schweickert, asked the rescue control centres in Rome and Valletta to evacuate four survivors. The seriously injured people showed symptoms of severe fuel poisoning. The victims, who had been below deck on the boat, were unable to escape the toxic fuel vapours and had lost consciousness as a result. The joint medical team from German Doctors e.V. and Sea-Eye e.V. was unable to determine a clear cause of death for the two deceased persons.

We in the medical team are very sad that two people did not survive the flight. After the urgent evacuation of one patient by helicopter to Malta, we worked intensively all night in the on-board hospital to stabilise the condition of three other seriously injured patients. We are pleased that we were able to do so until the evacuation of the three people in the morning hours on Lampedusa,” says Dr Gerd Klausen, on-board doctor on the SEA-EYE 4 for German Doctors e.V.

The Maltese armed forces evacuated a seriously injured person by helicopter at around 2 a.m. on Wednesday night. The SEA-EYE 4 then followed an Italian coastguard ship to Lampedusa to evacuate three more emergency patients.

Our operational year started with a very tragic rescue mission. It is important to realise how cruel it is to be trapped below deck and exposed to toxic fumes. The rescue of the survivors and the prompt evacuation of the seriously injured patients saved the lives of most of the people on board. We are incredibly saddened by the loss of two lives for whom all help came too late. Our thoughts are with their families,” says Jan Ribbeck, Head of Search and Rescue operations at Sea-Eye e.V.

The Italian authorities have assigned the SEA-EYE 4 to the Sicilian port of Porto Empedocle to disembark the remaining 53 survivors and two fatalities on board. The SEA-EYE 4 is expected to reach Porto Empedocle at around 10 a.m. on Thursday.

Municipalities and cities support Sea-Eye

On Friday morning (23.02.2024), the rescue ship SEA-EYE 4 departed from the Spanish port of Burriana on its first mission of the year. The ship has completed a regular maintenance interval there in recent weeks.

The first mission is supported by a municipal grant of €20,000 from the city of Osnabrück. Meanwhile, the city of Mannheim extended its municipal sponsorship of the SEA-EYE 4 and doubled the amount of funding from €5,000 to €10,000 per year. The city of Bern decided to support the Regensburg-based sea rescue organization Sea-Eye e.V. with 70,000 Swiss francs this year. Bern is thus the first city outside Germany to decide to sponsor a Sea-Eye ship and will hold an event in Bern on 27.02.2024.

The support from the municipalities gives us great backing. We are very grateful for this. The municipal sponsorship is a concrete way out of an ongoing solidarity crisis. The municipalities make it clear that our humanitarian work continues to be supported by a broad social alliance,” says Gorden Isler, Chairman of Sea-Eye e.V.

The municipal funding contrasts with a law passed by the federal government in January. Experts recently explicitly warned that the Repatriation Improvement Act could criminalize and prosecute the rescue of unaccompanied children. Sea-Eye therefore wrote to the Federal Minister of Justice and the Federal Minister of the Interior this Wednesday asking for legal clarification.

The organizations Sea-Eye e.V. from Regensburg and German Doctors e.V. from Bonn have decided to continue their cooperation this year. This marks the fourth year of cooperation between the two organizations. “On the first mission of the SEA-EYE 4 this year, our German Doctor Gerd Klausen will work with colleagues from the medical crew on board to ensure the health of those rescued in the Mediterranean. We are delighted to have Gerd Klausen on board, a very experienced doctor who is involved in sea rescue on a voluntary basis and who is doing such a valuable job for the people,” says Dr. Harald Kischlat, Chairman of German Doctors e.V.

The SEA-EYE 4 is expected to reach its operational area in the middle of next week.


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.

Sogenannte libysche Küstenwache

Italy demands Sea-Eye to follow the instructions of the so-called Libyan Coast Guard

On Monday afternoon, the captain of the SEA-EYE 4 was informed that the rescue ship will again be punished with an administrative detention of 20 days and a fine of around 3,000 euros. Specifically, the Italian coast guard accuses the crew of the ship of not following the instructions of the so-called Libyan coast guard. 

In fact, the so-called Libyan coast guard, under the threat of violence, requested the SEA-EYE 4 in international waters to change course and leave the sea area in a northerly direction. The so-called Libyan Coast Guard then harassed an inflatable boat carrying around 50 persons to such an extent that people panicked and fell into the water.

Sea-Eye released video footage of the incident that clearly shows the Libyans performing dangerous manoeuvres in the immediate vicinity of the inflatable boat.

 “The captain of the Libyan coast guard vessel dangerously pursued and harassed the rubber boat while his crew simultaneously stood by the railing smoking cigarettes and filming on their mobile phones. This has nothing whatsoever to do with sea rescue,” says Jan Ribbeck, head of mission of Sea-Eye e.V.

Due to the reckless and aggressive behaviour of the so-called Libyan coast guard, at least four people lost their lives.

 “If the SEA-EYE 4 had left the sea area, even more people would have died and no one would have known about this tragedy,” Ribbeck continues.

Sea-Eye asked the expert Prof. Dr. Valentin Schatz, Junior Professor for Public Law and European Law at the Leuphana University of Lüneburg, for a legal evaluation.

“The detention order and the fine have no basis in international law and violate the rights of the Federal Republic of Germany as the flag state of the SEA-EYE 4, which are guaranteed by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). According to UNCLOS, it is the sole responsibility of the flag state to prescribe and enforce rules concerning rescue at sea applicable to its ships in international waters. The flag state’s exclusive competence in this respect under international law is not affected by the International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue (SAR Convention), to which Italy itself refers in its detention order, but rather confirms it. The SAR Convention does not transfer any additional jurisdiction to coastal states on the basis of which they could lawfully regulate and sanction the behaviour of foreign ships in international waters. Germany, the flag state of SEA-EYE 4, has enacted the Ordinance on Maritime Safety (SeeFSichV) to implement and enforce the SAR Convention with respect to German ships. Suspected unlawful behaviour can be reported to the Federal Waterways and Shipping Administration. By exercising jurisdiction that under international law belongs exclusively to Germany as the flag state, the Italian authorities are acting in violation of UNCLOS. This should also be clear to the Italian government as the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea in Hamburg has already found a violation of the same rules by Italy in a similar, although perhaps even less clear, case in 2019 (The M/V “Norstar” Case (Panama v. Italy), Ruling of 10 April 2019, para. 222),” Schatz said.

Sea-Eye will also appeal the third detention of the rescue ship in 2023. In addition, the sea rescue organisation will seek legal review of whether the delays in the medical evacuation of a pregnant woman rescued by the SEA-EYE 4 could be justiciable. The head of mission on board had asked for several hours on Friday for the pregnant woman to be evacuated because she was in a life-threatening condition. The Maritime Rescue Coordination Center in Rome then referred to Libya’s area of responsibility and refused to coordinate the evacuation. However, Libya did not respond to a request from SEA-EYE 4. The Rome MRCC eventually instructed the SEA-EYE 4 to head for Lampedusa. 

“The journey took another eight hours. If a crew member had been affected himself, surely they would not have demanded that the affected person be evacuated to Tripoli or remain on the ship for eight more hours. This is where a distinction is made that needs to be named for what it is: racism,” Isler said. Italian journalists reported that the woman lost her unborn child. “Immediate action by the Italian authorities might have led to a different outcome,” Isler continues.