Sea rescue

SEA-EYE 4 with over 800 rescued people aboard in search of a port of safety

By Wednesday morning, the crews of the SEA-EYE 4 of Sea-Eye e. V. and German Doctors e. V. and the RISE ABOVE of Mission Lifeline e. V. had rescued a total of 397 people in 6 joint operations. But Thursday night saw another dramatic rescue of more than 400 people from a heavily overcrowded wooden boat.

AlarmPhone reported a maritime emergency Wednesday morning in the Maltese Search and Rescue Zone, where Malta is responsible for coordinating maritime emergencies. AlarmPhone also published the distress call on Twitter. AlarmPhone constantly kept informing the Maltese Rescue Coordination Center of new coordinates and requested coordination of the rescue. However, RCC Malta did not respond to any of the calls for assistance. The SEA-EYE 4 and the RISE ABOVE were about six hours away from the scene of the accident.

Sea rescue
© Hermine Poschmann & Mission Lifeline

Despite the great distance and the number of rescued people already on board the SEA-EYE 4, the head of missions of Sea-Eye and Mission Lifeline decided to proceed to the coordinates transmitted by AlarmPhone to the European rescue coordination centers, because no other help was to be expected for these people in acute danger to life.

The RISE ABOVE reached the two-level wooden boat first on Wednesday evening. By that time, there was already a leak in the boat and water was entering. Several people were in the water without life jackets and had to be rescued directly from the sea. The SEA-EYE 4 arrived shortly after. The crews of the rescue boats quickly provided the distressed people with life jackets, calmed them down and initially stabilized the dangerous situation. This was crucial because such a large wooden boat can easily capsize if unrest or even panic arises. Urgent medical emergencies were first evacuated to the SEA-EYE 4. One person was successfully resuscitated while still on the lifeboat on the way to SEA-EYE 4. The full evacuation of the wooden boat could not be completed until midnight.

There are now more than 800 people on the SEA-EYE 4, which has since set course for Lampedusa. The Italian island is only a few hours away from the scene of the accident and is thus the quickest port of safety to reach.

For the 24-member crew of the SEA-EYE 4, an unprecedented, highly stressful situation now arises. The rescue ship is dependent on the rapid assignment of a port of safety.

Sea rescue
© Hermine Poschmann & Mission Lifeline

Sea-Eye has already asked the rescue coordination center in Rome for the assignment of a safe port and the German Foreign Office for urgent assistance, as Malta still refuses any communication.

A state of emergency is now in effect on the SEA-EYE 4. Any delay by the authorities endangers the health and lives of the rescued people and our crew. It is shameful how Malta repeatedly shirks its responsibility and ignores distress calls,” says Gorden Isler, Chairman of Sea-Eye e. V.

The behavior of the European authorities has almost criminal features. The responsibilities are unambiguous and clearly regulated. Why the states do not adhere to it and knowingly abandon people in distress at sea can only be related to a lack of pressure of prosecution via the International Criminal Court. It would be easy to hold those responsible personally accountable!” says Axel Steier, board member and spokesman of MISSION LIFELINE e. V.

It is shocking how many rescues Sea-Eye and other organizations had to make in the last days. The situation on the ground is dramatic, as the rescue crews are reaching the edge of their capacities, which are no longer sufficient. We need help so that all people who are in distress at sea right now can be rescued. After all, this is our common moral responsibility,” said Dr. Christine Winkelmann, chairman of German Doctors, who are involved in the rescue operation through the ship’s doctor Daniela Klein.

Sea rescue

German rescue ships SEA-EYE 4 and RISE ABOVE involved in 5 rescue operations

The rescue ships SEA-EYE 4 from Sea-Eye e.V. and RISE ABOVE from Mission Lifeline e.V. received an emergency distress call from the AlarmPhone on Tuesday, November 2nd, 2021. The responsible authorities were informed at the same time. So far there has been no reaction from the authorities.

The smaller but faster RISE ABOVE was on scene first, provided the people with life jackets and stayed on site until the larger SEA-EYE 4 vessel arrived. The crew evacuated the people from the unseaworthy rubber boat, and brought them on board the SEA-EYE 4. During the first rescue, the rescue ships were informed of several further emergencies at sea. By Tuesday morning, the crews of both ships had rescued 325 persons from a total of 5 boats in distress. The cooperation between the two vessels with different characteristics turned out to be very effective. While the RISE ABOVE is twice as fast and can arrive on scene very quickly, the SEA-EYE 4 is able to take many people aboard and provide them with adequate medical care in the ship’s sick bay.

Sea rescue

This is made possible by the medical expertise of the Bonn-based organization German Doctors e.V., which is once again represented on the SEA-EYE 4 by on-board doctor Daniela Klein.

There are now 325 people on board the SEA-EYE 4. Among them are 152 children, 31 women and 142 men. Two of the women are pregnant. Aboard SEA-EYE 4, the rescued will now be offered an initial medical check-up, they will be tested for Covid-19 and provided with food and water.

“There are 5 people with serious injuries. Up to 10 people had to be treated longer in the hospital today. We will continue to work into the night and still have to provide medical care or monitor around 50 people. There are two pregnant women and a lot of children. Many of the rescued are very seasick, which is made worse by the fact that many people have inhaled fuel, causing terrible nausea and vomiting. There are many skin burns caused by the fuel mixed with seawater. Not to be forgotten are older wounds, which also have to be treated, and psychologically traumatized patients,” says Daniela Klein, doctor from German Doctors and currently aboard.

Sea rescue

“We have around 150 minors and several families with small children among those rescued. 11 children are approximately only three years old. If our ships had not been there in time, the lives of these people would have remained at the mercy of the sea. We are grateful that these families are now in the caring hands of our rescue crew,” says Gorden Isler, Chairman of Sea-Eye e.V.

“We are happy that we were able to save so many people in our first mission with our new ship together with the crew of the SEA-EYE 4. Combining the specific strengths and advantages of each of the two ships was incredibly valuable for these rescue operations,” says Axel Steier, Chairman of Mission Lifeline e.V.


Six organizations are calling for the future German federal government to drastically change their migration policy

The rescue ship SEA-EYE 4 set out on its third rescue mission on Saturday afternoon, October 23, 2021. While the formation of a new German federal government is being negotiated in Berlin, civil sea rescue organizations in the Mediterranean continue to fight for every single human life.

The past German federal governments have used the Mediterranean as a weapon in their isolationist policy and let people drown in order to prevent them from reaching EU shores. In addition, many thousands of people were forcibly returned to Libya, a country of civil war, and its torture camps by the Libyan coast guard. Together with AlarmPhone, Borderline Europe, Resqship, Sea-Watch and Seebrücke, Sea-Eye is calling on the future German federal government to finally stop this cruel policy.


The alliance calls for safe and legal flight routes to Germany as well as a comprehensive, non-military EU sea rescue program including disembarkation in a safe port. Since Frontex is responsible for numerous human rights violations such as push-backs and the abandonment of refugees at sea, Germany must insist that the border protection agency be abolished. In addition, Germany must take a leadership role in accepting refugees and advocate for abolishing the Dublin first-entry principle.

People are freezing, starving and dying at Europe’s borders. Police officers and Frontex officers beat up defenseless people and deliberately abandon them at sea. The suffering and agony of these victims are unimaginable and they were created by the politicians of EU countries with full intent. That is why we are calling on the future federal government to abandon  the current migration policy, to completely rethink it and to finally respect the human rights of all persons,” says Sophie Weidenhiller, press spokeswoman for Sea-Eye e. V.

Dr. Harald Kischlat, board member of German Doctors e. V. adds: “Respect for human rights is the basis of everything we do. As long as there are no humane solutions in sight on the part of the EU states, the commitment of our doctors on board the Sea-Eye is a matter close to our hearts and an obligation. We cannot and must not just watch the dying on the Mediterranean Sea.“

The NGO German Doctors is also sending one of their doctors on the third rescue mission of the SEA-EYE 4 to manage all medical matters aboard. Dr. Daniela Klein, who was already a crew-member during the previous mission will be in charge of taking great medical care of all the rescued people on the ship. Pregnant women, people with pre-existing illnesses and young children suffer the most from the risks of flight.


Bad weather front prevents further rescue missions

The crew of the SEA-EYE 4 rescued 29 people from life-threatening distress at sea on September 1st. The SEA-EYE 4 crew on watch spotted the people with binoculars on Wednesday morning. The people fleeing from Libya were huddled together in a small, overcrowded wooden boat. Among them are 18 minors, four of whom are only babies and eight are women. Two of the women are nine months pregnant.

Shortly after the rescue, the weather worsened, a low-pressure area developed and strong winds approached.

“The rescued people did not have a satellite-phone with them. They were incredibly lucky that we found them. If we hadn’t discovered them, they would have remained defenseless in the rough seas,” says Sophie Weidenhiller, spokeswoman for Sea-Eye e. V.


The operations management decided on Thursday evening to quickly bring the rescued people to safety. In particular, the two women in the last stages of pregnancy and the babies have to be brought ashore now and medically treated as fast as possible.

“From our point of view it would be irresponsible to let these women give birth in heavy seas in a small ship infirmary,” Weidenhiller continues.

Sea-Eye constantly keeps local authorities informed about the acute situation. The Italian coast guard declined the coordination on Thursday evening and referred to the responsibility of the German authorities for the SEA-EYE 4.

“We are grateful that the crew of the SEA-EYE 4 was able to save these 29 people. Although all refugees are in stable health conditions, the situation is extremely stressful. Especially for the two heavily pregnant women and the four babies, now also exacerbated by the rough sea and the strong winds. The decision to bring people straight back to a safe port is the only right one,” said Dr. Harald Kischlat, board member German Doctors e. V.

The SEA-EYE 4 is now on course for the Italian island of Sicily and will continue to ask the Italian and German authorities for assistance.

Rescue Zone SEA-EYE 4

Mission is dedicated to deceased Sea-Eye board member Prof. Dr. med. Tilman Mischkowsky

On Friday evening, Aug. 27, 2021, the alliance ship SEA-EYE 4 departed for its second rescue mission to the central Mediterranean Sea. The rescue ship is urgently needed, as there have been numerous reports of sea emergencies in recent days. The Italian authorities had previously detained the ship for 10 weeks in the port of Palermo on flimsy grounds and demanded technical adjustments. With the support of the competent German authority, Ship Safety Department of BG Verkehr, the sea rescuers managed to adapt the SEA-EYE 4 in such a way that the Italian coast guard lifted the detention.

The second rescue mission of the SEA-EYE 4 will be supported by a doctor from German Doctors again.

Desperate people who take on the life-threatening flight across the Mediterranean Sea due to poverty, war and persecution must not be left to their fate and drown in front of the European external borders! As a German Doctors mission doctor and part of the medical team on board of the SEA-EYE 4, I would like to contribute a small part to saving people on the run and hope for a successful mission,” says Dr. Daniela Klein, German Doctors mission doctor and ship’s doctor on board the SEA-EYE 4.

Daniela von German Doctors

Since 2014, more than 20,000 people have lost their lives in the Mediterranean Sea during their flight. 1241 people died in the Mediterranean Sea in 2021 alone due to a lack of safe passages (as of 26.08.2021).

Obituary on the passing of Prof. Dr. med. Tilman Mischkowsky by Jan Ribbeck, vice chairman of Sea-Eye e. V. and longtime companion

Prof. Dr. Tilman Mischkowsky passed away on April 17, 2021. He was a man of the first hours at Sea-Eye e. V. He sawed plywood boards on the first rescue ship of Sea-Eye e. V. and built a small infirmary. When a lack of tools for medical aid occured, like it happened in Nepal for example, he made hospital beds and surgical equipment from scrap metal himself. He knocked rust off the ship’s hull of the SEA-EYE with a hammer so that the old fishing boat could later save people from drowning.

However, Tilman Mischkowsky was not only able to get things done at the grassroots level, but also to think and steer on a large scale. He headed a trauma surgery department for decades and made his mark on the trauma surgery community with his expertise and presence. As chairman at Sea-Eye e. V., he has used his organizational skills, networking ability, and authority to help shape the path to our largest rescue ship to date and the professional work at Sea-Eye e. V.

He would have had great joy and satisfaction in accompanying the renewed departure of the SEA-EYE 4 today. With this second rescue mission he would fight together with the crew and all Sea-Eye activists against the complacent European policy of exclusion of refugees and defend the human right to life. Sea-Eye dedicates the second rescue mission of the SEA-EYE 4, which started on August 27, 2021 from Sicily, to Tilman Mischkowsky.


More than 300,000 people support the demand

Due to the devastating situation in Afghanistan, Sea-Eye and over 300,000 people demand in an open letter to the German Chancellor Angela Merkel to establish safe passages for all people who are now forced to leave the country.

Dear Chancellor:

In deepest concern and dismay we turn to you regarding the humanitarian catastrophe in Afghanistan. We do this with over 300,000 supporters who have signed the petition “Create safe passages from Afghanistan” (

The situation in Afghanistan is devastating! Thousands of people fear for their lives. The situation in Kabul is extremely dangerous. People have already died at the airport and many still persist in fear of death in the capital, waiting to be evacuated. Meanwhile, the Taliban are searching houses and apartments for their victims and controlling the streets.

However, the violence doesn’t take place in the capital only. The Taliban are also using violence against the population in other parts of the country. The UN reports on ongoing, serious human rights violations. There have been mass executions of civilians and former members of the Afghan security forces. In some regions, girls are no longer allowed to go to school – contrary to the Taliban’s claims – and women’s freedom of movement is restricted. Shabnam Khan Dawran, one of the most important presenters on state television, was deposed by the Taliban. The Taliban force minors to take up arms and the Taliban kill demonstrators during peaceful protests, such as in the cities of Asadabad and Jalalabad.

More than 3 million people have been displaced within the country – more than 500,000 people this year alone. More than 18 million people live in hunger in Afghanistan. Women and girls, as well as human rights activists, women’s rights activists and journalists, are particularly at risk under Taliban rule. However, anyone who opposes the rule and teachings of the Taliban faces severe reprisals, torture and murder. Germany has the duty to take responsibility and must not forget these people.

We therefore call on you together with 300,000 supporters to establish humanitarian corridors from Afghanistan. Currently, it is extremely difficult for many people to leave Afghanistan because the roads and border crossings are controlled by the Taliban. Advocate for opening the borders for all people who need to leave the country now. Coordinate with neighboring countries to do so. Clarify what reception capacities neighboring countries have and establish safe passages to the European Union with your European partners and let the German Federal Republic set a good example. More than 250 municipalities and cities have declared their willingness to take in refugees in the “Safe Havens” alliance. Enable these cities to finally help and take in the people.

Also work on an international level to ensure that countries take in Afghans who are now forced to flee despite the 20-year military operation of the West. The world community can give all Afghans a new life. We are convinced that no Afghan leaves his or her home for no reason. It is the responsibility of Germany and its partners to give all Afghans the opportunity to flee and thus enable them to make a self-determined decision. If Afghans fear for their safety and their lives, safe passages must be open to them. Do not abandon the people in Afghanistan!

As a sea rescue organization, we have seen the suffering caused by the lack of safe passages on our rescue missions in the Mediterranean for years. Not all people want to live in the European Union. But all people want to live in safety. Safe passages enable them to flee in a self-determined and safe manner. Without safe passages, people are forced to cross deserts and board unseaworthy boats. Many people – including children and families – die on their flight. We appeal to you: do not allow this to become the fate of Afghans. Create safe passages from Afghanistan.

Yours sincerely,
Axel Pasligh, Gorden Isler, Joana Weinmann and Sophie Weidenhiller
– from Sea-Eye e. V.

Italian authorities finally lift detention after 3 months

After a three-month detention of the alliance ship SEA-EYE 4, the inspectors of the Italian coast guard released the SEA-EYE 4 from the so-called administrative detention on Wednesday evening, August 18, 2021.

The ship had saved a total of 408 lives, including 150 children, during its first mission in May and was subsequently detained in Palermo. As with other detentions of German rescue ships, the Italian authorities placed excessive requirements on the ship, found fault with the ship’s certification and declared its sewage and waste disposal capacities insufficient. In the meantime, the European Court of Justice is dealing with the question of whether the detentions are lawful. Sea-Eye, like the German authorities, assumes that the detentions are unlawful. However, it may take more than a year unless the ECJ issues a judgement.

Therefore, Sea-Eye decided not to tie up resources in another lawsuit and – in coordination with the German authorities – to voluntarily comply with the requested adjustments in order to continue saving lives as soon as possible. For weeks, Sea-Eye’s nautical officers, engineers and crew members worked closely with the responsible flag state authority Ship Safety Department of BG Verkehr in Hamburg to work out solutions for more than 20 exaggerated requirements.

“The commitment of the officials from Hamburg was essential for the release of the SEA-EYE 4. Otherwise, we would simply have remained at the mercy of Italy and would have had to sue again. We are therefore very grateful towards the Ship Safety Department of BG Verkehr!”, says Gorden Isler, Chairman of Sea-Eye e. V.

Now, the SEA-EYE 4 will be prepared for its second rescue mission immediately. Sea-Eye and United4Rescue intend to send their second civil alliance ship on its second mission without further delay.

“We very much hope that the SEA-EYE 4 can be deployed on a regular basis now. It cannot be the case that Rome comes up with new complaints for every inspection in order to keep the rescue ships from sailing, again and again. This simply costs human lives and has to stop”, says Michael Schwickart, Vice Chairman of the alliance for civilian sea rescue United4Rescue.

Together with its operational partners German Doctors and Refugee Rescue, Sea-Eye plans to return to carrying out search and rescue operations before the end of August.

“Of course we will continue to support the SEA-EYE 4 on its second mission with our medical expertise in the ship’s sick bay. For us, it is a human imperative to save and care for people who are fleeing. Nobody in distress should be left at sea “, said Dr. Christine Winkelmann, executive director of German Doctors.

Most recently, the policy of detaining rescue ships forced Sea-Eye to cease operations with the ALAN KURDI and hand the ship over to the Italian organization ResQ. Under the name RESQ PEOPLE, the Italians saved 166 lives last week. Sea-Eye was able to finance the high costs of the SEA-EYE 4’s detention with their campaign “A Gift For Horst”. The campaign – supported by Klaas Heufer-Umlauf, Joko Winterscheidt, Sophie Passmann, Ruth Moschner and Jan Delay – had around 8,000 people donate over €260,000. Sea-Eye received a further donation of €50,000 for the upcoming mission from the German Postcode Lottery, which uses a large part of its revenue for charitable and benevolent purposes.

“This broad support clearly shows how many people are standing up against the European policy of isolation and letting people drown. We are becoming more and more in numbers, we are becoming louder and we are definitely not giving up!”, Isler continues.

Refugees on board the SEA-EYE 4

A Reason To Celebrate – But Why?

How was the Geneva Refugee Convention created?

During the two world wars in the 20th century, there were countless refugees, but no legally binding regulation for their protection. However, the need to protect refugees at international level became all too clear during these times. The breakthrough came on July 28, 1951 at a special UN conference in Geneva, when the Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees – the central legal document for the protection of refugees – was passed.

What is the content of the Geneva Refugee Convention?

The terms refugees, people on the move, fleeing persons and migrants are often used synonymously. However, the Geneva Refugee Convention defines when a person is considered a “refugee”. It also defines the rights and obligations of refugees.

Why is the Geneva Refugee Convention important for sea rescue?

The prohibition of expulsion and rejection is of particular importance. This means that states cannot deport a refugee to a country where their life or freedom is threatened. That is why people who have fled and who have been rescued from distress in the Mediterranean must be brought to a safe port in the European Union. Since the EU states themselves are not allowed to reject refugees, the EU instructs the so-called Libyan coast guard to intercept refugees at sea and to kidnap and bring them back to the war-torn country. This practice is a massive attack on the Geneva Refugee Convention.

How is the current situation?

The rights of refugees are threatened worldwide. There is no dedicated state-side European sea rescue operation for refugees in the Mediterranean. Instead, the EU is working with the so-called Libyan Coast Guard, which is responsible for numerous violent attacks on refugees, including such attacks that have resulted in the death of refugees. In Libya, people find themselves in detention camps where they are facing threats such as torture, rape and other serious human rights violations.

“70 years of the Geneva Refugee Convention are not only a reason to celebrate, but also to be outraged. It is our legal and moral duty to protect people in need. The EU blatantly disregards the rights of refugees at its borders. If we do not protect these people and their rights, we will lose the Geneva Refugee Convention. So this anniversary is also a reminder to protect what must not be lost if we want a more humane world.”
– Sophie Weidenhiller, spokeswoman for Sea-Eye e. V. –

Sophie Weidenhiller, Pressesprecherin von Sea-Eye

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Italian sea rescue organization ResQ starts new missions under the new ship name “ResQ PEOPLE

With a heavy heart, Sea-Eye parts with their rescue ship ALAN KURDI. The frequent detentions of the rescue ships forced Sea-Eye to sell the rescue vessel to the Italian sea rescue organization ResQ for 400,000 € for financial reasons. The ship will now be operated under the name ResQ PEOPLE. In the future, Sea-Eye will exclusively operate the SEA-EYE 4.

The detentions of civil sea rescue ships flying the German flag by the Italian authorities are a heavy financial burden for Sea-Eye. The Italian coast guard already detained the ALAN KURDI twice on flimsy grounds. Sea-Eye managed to free the ship both times after lengthy discussions and with the use of legal means. The detention of the rescue ships not only prevents Sea-Eye from doing its work but also costs enormous sums of money for port and legal fees.

For Sea-Eye it was a difficult, but an equally rational decision. Sea-Eye urgently needs the sales proceeds to continue operating the SEA-EYE 4.

We are grateful that this special ship remains in service of sea rescue. If there are organizations that have two ships and few resources, then you have to start a discussion with friends who have resources and are looking for a ship. We are living the spirit of European cooperation, just like we demand it from the EU states” says Gorden Isler, Chairman of Sea-Eye e. V.

The ALAN KURDI was the first rescue ship to fly the German flag and was used for the first time in December 2018. In total, Sea-Eye sent the ALAN KURDI on twelve rescue missions and thus saved 927 lives. Around 240 crew members total went on missions on this vessel.

Sea-Eye is grateful to all partners and donors who have sent this ship on rescue missions with us for more than two years. Sea-Eye would like to especially express their thanks to the Kurdi family. Abdullah and Tima Kurdi, father and aunt of the drowned Syrian boy Alan Kurdi, named the ship in February 2019. It was not easy for the family to endure all the ghastly hate speech that was posted online. But the ALAN KURDI was an important symbol and an appeal to Europe for two years. Sea-Eye will remain deeply connected to the Kurdi family in the future.

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Mayor of Palermo makes Sea-Eye crew honorary citizens

On Friday night Mayor Leoluca Orlando made the crew of the SEA-EYE 4 honorary citizens of the city of Palermo. Simultaneously the new rescue ship of the Regensburg sea rescuers was detained by two inspectors of the Italian coast guard.

The same technical reasons as with other civilian rescue ships previously, are now being used to prevent the SEA-EYE 4 from going on further missions.

“In essence, the argument is always the same: German rescue ships would regularly save too many people from drowning and do not have the right certification for such a humanitarian purpose,” says Gorden Isler, chairman of Sea-Eye e. V.

Honorary citizenship for the crew of the SEA-EYE 4 in Palermo

The Italian Coast Guard’s report states: “The large number of persons recovered, which exceeds the number allowed by the said certificate, poses a serious danger to the vessel and the crew”. In total, the inspectors cited 10 reasons for the detention during a 12-hour port state control. What seems especially grotesque is the fact that the captain of the SEA-EYE 4 is said to have violated Article 98 of the Convention on the Law of the Sea by rescuing too many people. Article 98, however, describes the explicit duty of flag states to oblige their captains to engage in rescue operations at sea.

“Our captain carried out the duty of sea rescue in an exemplary manner. He witnessed cases of distress at sea and carried out a safe rescue. The EU states could learn from that,” Isler continues.

By now, four rescue ships under the German flag have been arrested by Italy: the ALAN KURDI, the SEA-WATCH 3, the SEA-WATCH 4 and now the SEA-EYE 4 as well.

SEA-EYE 4: Lifebelt

The SEA-EYE 4 carried out its first rescue mission in May saving 408 lives, including 150 children. The rescued people were allowed to go ashore in Pozzallo, Sicily, on May 21 and 22, 2021, after the SEA-EYE 4 had spent several days searching for a port of safety. The Italian authorities obstructed and harassed the rescue ship and the rescued people in their search for a port of safety and during disembarkation. Read the full report.