In the first of two rescues during the night from Thursday to Friday, all help came too late for two people. The crew of the SEA-EYE 4 could only recover their bodies, including the mother of a baby, who is now being cared for on board the rescue ship.

These were dramatic hours on the central Mediterranean: In the night from Thursday to Friday, the crew of the SEA-EYE 4 was able to rescue a total of 109 people from distress at sea, including numerous children. During the first rescue mission, 32 people could be saved. However, the rescue was overshadowed by two deaths that occurred before the SEA-EYE 4 arrived. One of the deceased had made the life-threatening crossing with her baby. Immediately afterwards, the rescue ship set off for a second distress case.


During the night, another 77 people were rescued, including a pregnant woman. The SEA-EYE 4 is now on its way to Pesaro with a total of 109 survivors on board, the port assigned by Italy is about five days away. Italian authorities did not respond to a request for a closer port by Friday noon.

Six days the people of the first distress case were on the way on an unseaworthy metal boat. The distress was discovered and reported by the civil search and rescue aircraft Seabird of Sea-Watch e.V. late Thursday afternoon. As the only rescue ship that was underway in the area of operation at that time, the SEA-EYE 4 immediately set off. The journey took a total of 6 hours. When the rescuers reached the scene, two of the 34 people in the boat had already died. The Sea-Eye crew could only recover their bodies.


Many of the survivors had to be treated in the shipboard hospital. The medical team is still at its limit and in the process of treating several injured people. One person was in such bad condition that he was evacuated by the Maltese authorities by rescue helicopter on Friday morning.

In the past six years, in more than two dozen missions, we always arrived in time to prevent the loss of life. But this time we arrived too late for two people. They were at the mercy of Europe’s brutal border regime for six days. That is unforgivable. A mother lost her life even before we could reach the boat. A baby became a half-orphan. A man lost his wife. We are deeply saddened. Our thoughts are with the grieving families of the deceased. We are now bringing the survivors to safety,” said Gorden Isler, chairman of Sea-Eye e.V.

Refugee child

The news that our help for two people came too late makes us deeply sad and at the same time very angry. It is inhumane and shameful that the EU member states have stood idly by and watched the deaths in the Mediterranean Sea for years. Our thoughts are with the relatives of those who died, with those who were rescued, and we wish the crew of the SEA-EYE 4 that they will be able to stabilize the survivors and bring them to a port of safety soon,” explains Dr. Harald Kischlat, Chairman of German Doctors e.V. The organization regularly provides volunteer ship’s doctors for the missions of the SEA-EYE 4, including this mission.


Already 33 dead since the beginning of the year.

On Thursday morning, 26.01.2023, the SEA-EYE 4 set off on its first rescue mission in 2023. The now eleventh mission of the alliance ship was made possible by the great support and donations in recent weeks and a funding by the civilian sea rescue alliance United4Rescue. The acute need for rescue missions is already evident with a glance at the recent death toll for the current year: a total of at least 33 people have died in the Mediterranean already.

Today, more people have already died at Europe’s borders than the new year has days! Thanks to the increased willingness to donate in recent weeks, we can carry out this important rescue mission. For this, we are very grateful to all supporters,” says Gorden Isler, Chairman of Sea-Eye e. V. “The five further rescue missions planned for 2023 are not yet securely financed and are therefore hanging by a thread. We can already see that we are also urgently needed in the central Mediterranean in 2023 because the EU member states continue to do nothing about the dying at our maritime borders.

It is important that the mission of SEA-EYE 4 can take place as planned. Even now in winter, people are fleeing across the Mediterranean. We are happy that our alliance can concretely help to save lives,” says Sandra Bils, board member of United4Rescue. “At the same time, we also notice that people are donating less at the moment. But whether we can save or not should not be down to money. If missions are in danger because of collapsing donations, it shows once again: we need a governmental sea rescue!

For the second time as a ship’s doctor on board is the experienced mission doctor Dr. Angelika Leist from German Doctors: “I am involved in civil sea rescue because I can not bear to see photos of deceased refugees and because the official agencies have all disengaged. Besides, the rich European countries are partly responsible for the fact that people live in circumstances that force them to leave their home countries. I have hope that we can save as many people as possible on this mission as well.” The Bonn-based aid organization German Doctors e.V. plans to continue sending doctors on SEA-EYE 4 missions in 2023.


Italy massively interferes with the rights of the flag state Germany, European law and human rights guarantees.

With new rules of conduct at the end of the year, the Italian government wants to further complicate the work for civilian sea rescue organizations and, according to legal experts from Sea-Eye’s Legal Team, massively interferes with the rights of the flag state Germany, European law and international and regional human rights guarantees.

According to the version of the decree available to us and a preliminary assessment of its legal content, it is likely to be unlawful insofar as it seeks to regulate the conduct of German-flagged vessels in international waters and to sanction them upon entry into the Italian territorial sea. The coastal state has no authority to regulate and enforce the rescue of foreign ships beyond its territorial sea (12 nautical miles). Thus, Italy cannot dictate how rescue operations in international waters are to be conducted, as this is a matter for the flag state (in the case of Sea-Eye Germany). Even according to the International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue, Italy as a coastal state (and only in its own Search and Rescue Zone) can only coordinate and issue instructions, the enforcement of which, according to international and German law, is then in turn the responsibility of Germany as the flag state. Moreover, neither the International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue nor the Guidelines of the International Maritime Organization provide a basis for the rules of conduct demanded by Italy”, says Prof. Dr. Valentin Schatz, member of the Sea-Eye Legal Team.

Italy is therefore interfering with Germany’s freedom of navigation under Article 87 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea without any basis in international law by regulating the conduct of German ships in international waters and threatening them with fines and the seizure of ships. It should be noted here that Italy has already been convicted in 2019 in a case before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea in Hamburg (The M/V “Norstar” Case [Panama v. Italy], Judgment of 10 April 2019, paragraph 222) for a similar unjustified interference with Article 87 of the Law of the Sea Convention.

It follows from the EU Directive on common procedures for granting and withdrawing international protection that EU member states must provide information on asylum applications. This also applies at the EU border. But this duty cannot be shifted to civilian sea rescue organizations or to the crews of rescue ships. Rather, it is the duty of the EU coastal state or the EU border state concerned. Similarly, the duty to conduct asylum procedures is a coastal state obligation,” says Prof. Dr. Anuscheh Farahat, member of the Sea-Eye Legal Team.

Sea-Eye will not follow any illegal code of conduct or any other official directive that violates international law or the laws of our flag state. In our case, these are the laws of the Federal Republic of Germany. We therefore reject this so-called code of conduct and fear that this will lead to conflicts with the Italian authorities. We therefore expect the Federal Government to protect the sea rescue organizations under German flag from the illegal behavior of the Italian authorities and to support us decisively in case of conflict. Any delay in our operations endangers human lives,” says Dr. Annika Fischer, member of the board of Sea-Eye e.V.

Disembarkation in Livorno

First rescue mission in 2023 on the line due to slump in donations

On 23.12.2022, the SEA-EYE 4 arrived at the port of Livorno with 108 rescued people on board. Three people with severe fuel burns, which they had contracted on their boat due to gasoline spills, had to be taken directly from the ship to a hospital. At noon, all people were finally able to leave the rescue ship.

During the rescue mission, the crew was able to find two distress cases and rescue all people. While the cooperation with other NGOs like Mission Lifeline as well as with merchant vessels like the MTM SOUTHPORT worked well, there was no support from the responsible rescue coordination centers. On the contrary, if it had been up to the Italian and Maltese authorities, the SEA-EYE 4 would have docked in Livorno with significantly fewer rescued people. Thus, the Maltese rescue coordination center actively tried to prevent the second rescue by requesting merchant ships to ignore the distress case under threat of consequences.

Disembarkation in Livorno

For the first time, the port allocation by Italian authorities was done proactively and while a rescue operation was still underway.

There are many indications that it is a new strategy of the Italian authorities to assign ports as quickly as possible and as far away as possible. This is an attempt to keep rescue ships out of the area of operation as quickly and for as long as possible. The strategy is changing, but the goal of the authorities remains the same: to make it more difficult to rescue people in order to reduce the number of arrivals in Europe,” said Gorden Isler, chairman of Sea-Eye e.V.

Disembarkation in Livorno

In the past few days, the medical team on board provided initial treatment to all 108 people rescued from distress at sea. 20 refugees suffered from moderate to severe burns from spilled gasoline. Three particularly severe cases had to be taken directly from the ship to hospital. I am glad that all those rescued are now on land and safe,” says Nour Hanna, mission doctor from German Doctors e.V., summing up the situation.

Disembarkation in Livorno

In January, the SEA-EYE 4 is actually supposed to set off directly on its next mission. Unfortunately, funding is on the line due to a 23 percent drop in donations compared to the same period last year. We are therefore very concerned about being able to carry out fewer missions in the coming year,” Isler said.


SEA-EYE 4 rescues another 45 people from distress at sea and is now on its way to Livorno with 108 people on board.

In the night from Sunday to Monday, the crew of the SEA-EYE 4 was able to rescue 45 more people from distress at sea in the Maltese search and rescue zone, after they had been fighting for survival on the high seas for six days. Previously, both Italy and Malta had actively tried to prevent the rescue of these people. For example, Malta instructed two merchant ships to ignore the case and even threatened consequences.

On Saturday afternoon (Dec. 17), when Italian authorities assigned Livorno as a port of safety to the SEA-EYE 4, with 63 rescued people on board at the time, the rescue ship was involved in the search of another distress case. 45 people had been holding out for days on a plastic boat unfit for sea. Although the Italian authorities knew about the case and the acute life-threatening situation of the people since Friday, they instructed the SEA-EYE 4 to sail immediately to Livorno.


As there were no other rescue vessels in the immediate vicinity, the SEA-EYE 4 remained in operation and continued to search for the people missing. During the 35-hour journey, the SEA-EYE 4 was in contact with two merchant ships that were also in the Maltese search and rescue zone and assured help. However, the Maltese Rescue Coordination Centre instructed both vessels to continue on their regular course. While the NORVIKEN then called off the search, the MTM SOUTHPORT remained on the scene and continued to participate in the search.

An email from the Maltese Rescue Coordination Centre to the MTM SOUTHPORT stated that there was no distress case and that a rescue of the people would be considered an interception on the high seas by the Maltese authorities. Measures to rescue or at least to review the case were not initiated by Malta at any time. Instead, the Maltese Rescue Coordination Centre actively tried to prevent the rescue. This is a systematic approach based on political calculations, which repeatedly costs human lives: The case of the young girl Loujin, who died of thirst in the Maltese search and rescue zone in September, is just one well-known example of the consequences of this deliberate inaction.

Email RCC Malta

This case relentlessly shows that the failure of Maltese authorities to provide assistance is systematic. The fact that Malta not only does not carry out its own rescues in its own search and rescue zone, but even actively tries to prevent rescues by merchant ships, is a scandal!” says Gorden Isler, Chairman of Sea-Eye e.V.

With the help of MTM SOUTHPORT, the SEA-EYE 4 was finally able to find the 45 people, rescue them and evacuate them to the SEA-EYE 4. The hardships left clear traces. Nearly all of the people suffered burns from spilled gasoline and are traumatized by the events. In total, the people were out at sea for six days and had to fear for their lives. The SEA-EYE 4 is now on its way to Livorno to bring all 108 people safely ashore. The authorities were informed at all times about the status of the rescue and the actions of the SEA-EYE 4.


The crew is exhausted but happy to have rescued the people. The first thing we have to do now is wash the clothes of those rescued, because all of them were completely soaked in gasoline. As a result, many have suffered burns that need to be treated at the hospital. The people will need a long time to recover, many stare stunned into the distance and stagger across the deck,” is how operations manager Jan Ribbeck describes the situation on board the morning after the rescue.

As an SAR coordinator, I watched everything unfold from shore, and it was a roller coaster of emotions: we were so relieved that merchant ships responded to this distress call, because we were still too far away and small boats like this can capsize quickly. But then to witness that the state actors, who are supposed to save lives, order the ships that wanted to help to turn away is unbelievable. I am glad that no one had to die this time, but there are other cases where people die just because states like Malta refuse to help them. This is a scandal, we should all be outraged!” said Sophie Weidenhiller, SAR coordinator of Sea-Eye.



SEA-EYE 4 has 63 rescued people on board after joint civil fleet rescue operation

On Friday evening, the crews of the SEA-EYE 4 of Sea-Eye e.V. and the RISE ABOVE of Mission Lifeline e.V. rescued 63 people from an unseaworthy rubber boat and thus from acute danger to their lives. Among those rescued were 12 unaccompanied minors and five women. By the time of the rescue, the people had already been at sea for one and a half days.

The distress case was reported to the authorities by the aid organization AlarmPhone at noon and forwarded to the two rescue ships. After several hours of searching, the boat was found. When the RISE ABOVE reached the boat, the crew of the ship carried out first aid. Subsequently, the crew of the SEA-EYE 4 evacuated the people from the unseaworthy rubber boat in order to provide them with medical care and to supply the people with food, drink and warm clothing.


Some of the people rescued suffered chemical burns from gasoline spills on the rubber boat. Many were very weak and suffered from seasickness, so we had to stabilize people first. Numerous people also have older injuries from presumably traumatic experiences. At the moment, all those rescued are in stable condition and out of life-threatening danger,” said Nour Hanna, the mission doctor from German Doctors, describing the state of health of the guests after the rescue.

The rescue operation once again showed how effectively cooperation within the civilian fleet works: “Fleeing across the Mediterranean is particularly dangerous at this time of year because the weather can change quickly. That’s why we are happy that the cooperation between different civil organizations works so well. But it remains unforgivable that this work is still organized by us and our partners, instead of state actors. We therefore maintain the demand for a state-organized sea rescue mission with the clear mandate to save as many lives as possible,” says Gorden Isler, chairman of Sea-Eye e.V.


First mission for Sea-Eye since Giorgia Meloni’s extreme right-wing government took office.

The SEA-EYE 4 departed from Burriana on Wednesday (07.12.2022) for the sixth and final rescue mission in 2022. The ongoing mission is largely made possible by the civilian sea rescue alliance United4Rescue. “Without the help of the alliance, which is supported by more than 850 institutions, the current mission could not be financed,” says Gorden Isler, Chairman of Sea-Eye e.V.

The Regensburg sea rescuers have been suffering from a massive drop in donations for months. A funding of 300,000 € by United4Rescue and further funding of 25,000 € by the UNO-Flüchtlingshilfe and 15,000 € by Civilfleet Support e.V. now enable the SEA-EYE 4 to return to the central Mediterranean. Since the alliance ship set off on its first rescue mission in May 2021, the crews have saved more than 2,300 people from drowning.

We are delighted that, thanks to our support, the SEA-EYE 4 was able to set off on its next mission and will be saving lives again in the coming days,” said Ansgar Gilster, board member of United4Rescue. “No rescue ship should be left in port because there is no money – that’s what we stand for with our broad alliance.

For the SEA-EYE 4, this is the first mission since the change of government in Italy. Already in the first weeks of the extreme right-wing government under Giorgia Meloni, the situation for civil sea rescue organizations in the Mediterranean has rapidly escalated. Prime Minister Meloni, as well as other members of the cabinet, did not only radically ramp up rhetorically. In November, for example, the Minister of the Interior, Matteo Piantedosi, issued an illegal decree in an attempt to massively restrict the fundamental right to asylum and to deny refugees the right to apply for asylum on European soil, contrary to current law.


In this situation, it is all the more important that we as a civic society stand up for the human right to bodily integrity. We will continue to stand together against the dying in the Mediterranean, and we demand a clear shift of course in refugee and migration policy from politicians,” says Dr Harald Kischlat, Chairman of German Doctors e.V.

The Bonn-based humanitarian aid organization German Doctors e.V. is once again providing the mission doctor on board. The organizations Sea-Eye and German Doctors want to continue working together in 2023 to save as many people as possible from drowning. How often the SEA-EYE 4 will be able to embark in 2023 is uncertain. Sea-Eye received significantly fewer donations this year than in the same period last year. 

We have to emphasize now that we will do fewer missions in the coming year if the situation does not improve quickly. Already the first planned mission in the coming year is seriously endangered,” says Isler.


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:

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.