First use of federal funds for civil sea rescue mission
On Friday afternoon (13.10.2023), the German rescue ship SEA-EYE 4 left the port of the Spanish town of Burriana and set off on its fourth mission of the year. It is the first mission to be partly financed by federal funds. In November 2022, the German Federal Parliament decided to support civil sea rescue with budget funds. The Federal Foreign Office has now implemented the resolution and approved an application for funding of rescue missions with the SEA-EYE 4.
However, a broad alliance is involved in the overall financing of the mission. In addition to hundreds of private donors, the current mission is also secured through funding from the UN Refugee Agency, the German Postcode Lotterie and with municipal funds from the German cities of Wolfsburg and Greifswald.
“Civil sea rescue is supported by an increasingly broad alliance. The fact that the German government is now, after so many years of humanitarian emergency at the EU’s external borders, finally taking action and actually participating in the funding of a civil sea rescue mission is a very important political signal,” says Gorden Isler, chairman of Sea-Eye e.V..
The dispute over the funding of civil sea rescue organisations recently sparked controversy in political circles in Berlin. In particular, the distancing of the German Chancellor has caused irritation among Sea-Eye rescuers.
“There must be unquestionable agreement across all party lines that we save people from drowning and that there cannot be a single reason to abandon people at sea who are seeking protection. Human dignity must never be relativised in migration policy,” Isler continues.
Since mid-2021, the globally active medical organisation German Doctors has been cooperating with the civil sea rescue organisation Sea-Eye.
“We do not want to close our eyes to the fact that countless people are still risking and losing their lives as they flee across the Mediterranean. Our main focus is on rescuing people from acutely life-threatening situations – in our projects as well as in the Mediterranean,” explains Dr Christine Winkelmann, responsible for this project.
As a mission doctor on SEA-EYE 4’s fourth mission this year, Barbara Held will provide basic medical care to people in distress who have been rescued from the Mediterranean Sea by the SEA-EYE 4 on behalf of German Doctors.
Commenting on her motivation, the experienced general practitioner and ship’s doctor says: “This will be my eighth rescue mission. I wish it could be my last, because people would no longer have to flee. But that’s just a dream at the moment.” For her first mission with the SEA-EYE 4, Barbara Held hopes “that the crew will be in the right place at the right time”.
Overall, the number of arrivals of people seeking protection in Italy has almost doubled compared to the previous year. However, sea rescue organisations are only deployed in emergencies: in 2% of cases, sea rescue organisations from Germany were involved in disembarking people seeking protection in Italy (source: ISPI). In total, more than 2,400 people died in 2023 trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea to seek protection in Europe. This month marks the tenth anniversary of the severe Lampedusa disasters, in which hundreds died off the coast of Lampedusa on 3 and 11 October 2013. Since then, more than 28,000 people have lost their lives at the EU’s external borders. This makes them the deadliest external borders in the world.