SEA-EYE 4: Refugees

Criticism of Italy’s action against refugees

Yesterday, the crew was able to say goodbye to the last of the more than 400 rescued people, among them 150 children, in the port of Pozzallo and successfully complete the first rescue mission with our new ship SEA-EYE 4.

During the search for a port of safety and during the disembarkation of the rescued people, the Italian authorities showed their deep displeasure against us and the people seeking protection. Thus, Italy responded only two days after we had requested a port of safety and thereupon assigned us a port far off, imposing another two-day sea voyage on the weakened and partly traumatized people.

SEA-EYE 4: Gerettete

When the SEA-EYE 4 arrived at the port of Pozzallo, an inhumane tragedy began with the Italian operational forces in the leading role. An employee of the port authority first refused to come on board because he was afraid that the “migrants” would transmit diseases. Associating fleeing people with diseases is a widespread racist stereotype, with the purpose of devaluing people. This incident is not only shameful, but emblematic of the entire racist policy of isolation and deterrence of EU member states.

SEA-EYE 4: Gerettete

The low point was the forcible medical examination of infants.

Dr. Jan Ribbeck head of operations on the SEA-EYE 4 reported, “The medical staff on site performed forced PCR tests on toddlers through their noses in a most brutal way. They were screaming in pain. As a doctor, I cannot understand how one can treat young children in this way. In addition, it makes no medical sense to force such tests on children at such a young age.”

SEA-EYE 4: Gerettete

On Friday evening, Italian authorities declared that the SEA-EYE 4 should go back out to sea with the remaining 141 rescued people to spend the night. The captain of the SEA-EYE 4 was worried that the remaining people might throw themselves into the water out of desperation. Thanks to his courageous protest, this unrealistic and dangerous instruction could be averted.

After two days the last rescued person left the SEA-EYE 4. Italy has once again shown itself from its worst side. We ask ourselves, what Italy would like to aim at with this inhumane and partly brutal proceeding. Does it think that this will persuade the EU states to a faster distribution of the refugees? Or does it think that we would stop our work? Why this harassment and violence against those seeking protection? Why are the EU member states fighting against refugees instead of finally doing something about the causes of flight? How many more people have to pay for this policy with their lives until it is realized in the European capitals that this policy of deterrence and isolation is inhumane?

SEA-EYE 4: Gerettete

The first rescue mission of the SEA-EYE 4 has ended successfully. We have summarized the events of this special mission in a video and we have one request.

Criticism of Italy’s choice of port of disembarkation

On Friday, May 21, 2021, the rescue ship SEA-EYE 4 entered the port of Pozzallo. Shortly after, the first of the 400 rescued people, including 150 children, were allowed to leave the ship. The disembarkation is accompanied by racist comments of the official forces on site.

Chief of operations Jan Ribbeck comments on the conditions: “No proportionate and humane measures are taken here. An 8-month-old baby and toddlers had their noses swabbed while screaming.

The crew had already asked for a port of safety on Monday. It was not until two days later on Wednesday evening that the Italian authorities responded and assigned the SEA-EYE 4 to Pozzallo, Sicily. At that time, the SEA-EYE 4 was several nautical miles away on the other side of the Mediterranean island just outside the port of Palermo. Palermo’s mayor, Leoluca Orlando, had previously extended an invitation to the rescued people and crew to go ashore in his port.

SEA-EYE 4: Gerettete

Due to the choice of the port of disembarkation Pozzallo, a great number of people had to spend two more nights sleeping on the steel floors of the SEA-EYE 4. EU countries are increasingly brutal in their treatment of people in need of protection and are harassing those who want to help them. It is simply appalling that Spanish soldiers are beating refugees back into the water and Italian parliamentarians are celebrating this in the context of our situation to propose the same treatment of our rescued people! Instead of fighting causes of flight, state actors are themselves attacking people who are fleeing. If the EU continues to tilt in this direction, then we can write off the 1951 Refugee Convention for good,” says Gorden Isler, Chairman of the board of Sea-Eye e. V.

Gerettete an Bord der SEA-EYE 4

The allocation of the port of safety followed a few hours after a young man had to be evacuated from the SEA-EYE 4 by the Italian coast guard due to a serious heart condition. Malta had already refused to provide a port of safety to the rescued people and end their suffering at sea in a timely manner on Tuesday. The people now need a safe environment and access to medical care.

The last seven days of our rescue mission have once more very clearly demonstrated the failure of the EU states. People regularly drown as they flee and thousands are forcibly returned to the civil war hell of Libya. No one in the governments of Europe seems to even think about respecting human rights anymore,” Isler said at the end of the rescue mission.

SEA-EYE 4: Gerettete

We are glad that the first rescue mission of our new alliance ship has ended with such success. While EU states are abandoning fleeing people and condoning their deaths, civilians have joined forces behind us and are rescuing as many people as they can,” says Michael Schwickart, Vice Chairman of United4Rescue.

We are happy that the medical care on board of the Sea-Eye 4 was successful and even an emergency evacuation was possible in time. We would like to thank our mission doctor Stefan Mees as well as the entire crew of the Sea-Eye 4 and our partners from United4Rescue for the successful rescue of more than 400 people. Now that the refugees have been allowed to go ashore, we appeal to the Italian authorities to allow them access to further medical and psychological care. This is indispensable, because many of the men, women and children are traumatized and in poor health,” says Dr. Christine Winkelmann, Executive Director German Doctors e. V.

SEA-EYE 4: Medizinische Evakuierung

The SEA-EYE 4 had rescued more than 400 people from boats unfit for the high seas in six rescue missions from May 14 to May 17, 2021. UNHCR reported that the so-called Libyan Coast Guard meanwhile prevented a total of 650 people from leaving the civil war country of Libya. Earlier media reports indicate that EU states are supporting these forced repatriations through their own task forces such as Frontex. The crew of the SEA-EYE 4 collected evidence on this themselves. On May 14, the crew reached an abandoned boat without any people, but during the operation they sighted a Frontex aircraft. And on May 17, the crew only became aware of a boat because a Frontex aircraft was circling not far from SEA-EYE 4, however, without directly informing Sea-Eye about the emergency at sea.

Boat without people

I thank all of our partners, especially United4Rescue and German Doctors, who made this rescue mission possible and supported us in saving over 400 people from drowning,” Isler said.

Boat in distress

Aid organizations have to operate without any federal support

The crew of the new alliance vessel SEA-EYE 4 rescued more than 400 people from boats that are not suitable for the high seas in six rescue missions during Sunday and Monday, May 16-17, 2021. All people were brought aboard SEA-EYE 4 and were medically examined. Among the rescued are many children, an 8-month young baby and several pregnant women.

The EU states have escalated the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the central Mediterranean. Fleeing becomes more and more dangerous as people do not even dare to call for help anymore, because the European rescue coordination centers only send them the so-called Libyan coast guard”, says Gorden Isler, chairman of Sea-Eye e. V.

Einsatzcrew der SEA-EYE 4

The SEA-EYE 4 has saved lives for the first time – what great news! We are very happy and proud that our second alliance ship was able to bring more than 400 people to safety. The duty to rescue at sea is an international law – even if this duty is currently only carried out by civilian sea rescue and not by the member states of the EU”, says Thies Gundlach, Chairman of United4Rescue.

For the first time German Doctors supports a rescue mission of Sea-Eye operationally. On board, mission doctor, Stefan Mees, examined the rescued people: “We had to treat 25 people in the onboard hospital for a longer time. Among them three pregnant women one in her 8th month. 3 small children were also in a bad condition; however, we were able to stabilize them in the meantime. One man was diagnosed with pneumonia. To be on the safe side, we performed a corona test on him, which fortunately turned out negative. The main problems are: Hypothermia, dehydration, malnutrition as well as seasickness, and fainting.”

SEA-EYE 4: Krankenstation

So-called Libyan coast guard abducts hundreds of people to civil war country

In the last 48 hours, the so-called Libyan coast guard has dragged hundreds of people back to the civil war country. They are thus threatened with internment and serious human rights violations. As media reports have shown, Frontex is cooperating with the so-called Libyan coast guard. The crew of the SEA-EYE 4 has also already observed this. For example, on Friday, the crew received a distress call from about 50 people on a small wooden boat forwarded by Alarm Phone. When the crew found the boat, there was no trace of the people. During the operation, the SEA-EYE 4 sighted a Frontex aircraft.

Leeres Boot

“Since Frontex directly or indirectly communicates the coordinates of boats carrying people who seek protection to the so-called Libyan coast guard, we have to assume that these people have been victims of another illegal refoulement at the instruction of EU states and that the people have been returned to Libya’s detention camps”, Isler said.

During the third rescue yesterday, the crew became aware of a boat because a Frontex aircraft was circling not far from SEA-EYE 4, but without directly informing Sea-Eye about the maritime emergency. There were another 50 people on the boat.

“EU states are using the Libyan coast guard to drag people into a civil war that has lasted more than a decade. Everyone knows what is currently happening. The EU states would rather see these people dead or in Libya than take responsibility for them”, Isler said.


Yesterday our new rescue ship SEA-EYE 4 left for the operational area. But yesterday Italy also detained the rescue ship SEA-WATCH 4 again. Drowned people have been part of the EU’s migration policy for years. We will do everything we can to save as many people as possible from the EU’s crosshairs.


United4Rescue finances the mission of the new rescue ship

The new rescue ship SEA-EYE 4 left the Spanish port of Burriana for the first time on May 8th, 2021. It is expected to reach the search-and-rescue area in the central Mediterranean in 5 days. The humanitarian mission of SEA-EYE 4 in the Mediterranean is supported by United4Rescue, the alliance for civil sea rescue, as well as the German medical NGO German Doctors.

United4Rescue finances mission costs

United4Rescue supports the SEA-EYE 4 missions with an additional 423,000 euros and thus enables the expansion of civil rescue capacities in the Mediterranean. United4Rescue had previously contributed a substantial amount the purchase and conversion of the ship. The SEA-EYE 4 is already the second alliance ship of United4Rescue.

We are very grateful to our alliance partner United4Rescue for their continued support. Thanks to the help of United4Rescue, the SEA-EYE 4 was able to leave for the search-and-rescue area today. More than 600 people drowned at Europe’s external border in the past 4 months. Italian scientists recently showed that the EU member states allowed the risk of dying at sea to increase drastically again. We finally need safe escape routes,” says Gorden Isler, Chairman of Sea-Eye e. V.


“We are proud and happy that the SEA-EYE 4 was able to start its first mission today with our support. The terrible shipwreck disaster at the end of April and the many rescues of the Sea-Watch 4 and the Ocean Viking in recent weeks have made it abundantly clear again that civil sea rescue in the Mediterranean is indispensable. We would also like to thank everyone who supported us and donated for this cause. Without this kind of support, the purchase, the conversion and the first mission of the SEA-EYE 4 would not have been possible and we hope for much support in the future,” says Michael Schwickart, board member of United4Rescue.

New cooperation between German Doctors and Sea-Eye

In order to provide better medical care for people who have been rescued from distress in the Mediterranean Sea, German Doctors e. V. and Sea-Eye e. V. entered into a cooperation. A German Doctor is on board for the first time on the current mission.

The internist and emergency doctor Stefan Mees justifies his voluntary work as follows: “Every human life is precious and none should be lost in the waters of the Mediterranean. In addition, it is currently only through civil sea rescue that the awareness that something terrible is happening at the European external borders is kept alive, something that does not correspond with European values.”

Stefan Mees, Einsatzarzt von German Doctors

German Doctors is a member of the United4Rescue alliance and has campaigned for civil sea rescue in the past. Through the cooperation with Sea-Eye, German Doctors is now also operationally involved in the missions of SEA-EYE 4.

Even in times of the pandemic, we must not lose sight of the fact that people continue to risk their lives on the dangerous sea routes in order to flee from hardship, misery and persecution in their countries of origin. It is our responsibility that we take care of people in their desperate situation on the Mediterranean and offer them medical first aid on the SEA-EYE 4,” says Dr. Christine Winkelmann, Chairwoman of German Doctors e. V.

“The SEA-EYE 4 is able to offer first aid to significantly more people than our previous rescue ships. That is why it is very important for us to further professionalize medical care on board. The medical experience of German Doctors is a great help and we are pleased to have another strong alliance partner at our side who will support us operationally in the future,” said Isler.


An additional rescue ship is urgently needed

In this year alone, at least 616 people have drowned while fleeing across the Mediterranean Sea. The EU states continue to use drowning and collaborating with the so-called Libyan Coast Guard as a tool to deny people seeking protection their rights. With the SEA-EYE 4, Sea-Eye opposes the dying on the world’s deadliest escape route and will save as many people as possible from drowning or push-backs to Libyan internment camps.


Sea-Eye would like to thank all supporters, especially the many volunteers in the shipyard and during the transfer to the Mediterranean Sea as well as the many donors who made the use of the new rescue ship SEA-EYE 4 possible. The entire crew on board was tested negative for Corona-virus before the mission and has completed a quarantine on board the ship. Even in the event of a rescue, the crew is prepared for potential COVID-19 cases with a strict hygiene concept.


Great solidarity among alliance partners Sea-Watch and Sea-Eye

Sea-Eye recently completed the upgrade of the new rescue ship SEA-EYE 4 in Rostock and sent it on its way to the Mediterranean. The delays in the shipyard work caused by the corona pandemic, combined with extensive new safety requirements, led to rising costs for Sea-Eye. The civil sea rescue organization Sea-Watch now shows great solidarity and agreed to support Sea-Eye financially for the purpose of completing all final and necessary upgrades aboard  the SEA-EYE 4, as well as promoting long-term sustainability of organizational structures and processes with 550,000 euros.

Especially in times of crisis we have to stick together and show what practical solidarity really means. Because Europe continues to let people drown in the Mediterranean and prevents civil sea rescuers from rescuing them, we must ensure that all rescue workers are mobilized in the Mediterranean. With the SEA-EYE 4, another ship of solidarity is launched. We are pleased that, together with our supporters, we can contribute to the continuation of the struggle for human rights in the Mediterranean,” Marlene Lippmann, Head of Fundraising Sea-Watch.

Thanks to the great solidarity of our alliance partner Sea-Watch, Sea-Eye is back on track. Now we are working with enormous concentration to raise enough donations to continuously stay operational year-round,” says Gorden Isler, chairman of Sea-Eye e. V.

SOS Mediterranee: Tweet

April 22nd, 2021, 9:35 PM

Before I started to write this text, I was busy with day-to-day NGO business. Writing emails and working on documents mostly. And then I checked my phone and what I saw was horrifying. I had to stop what I was doing and instead I wrote this piece – it’s my raw thoughts and feelings, and it’s a plea – a plea for humanity.

Tonight my cellphone beeped and what popped up was a tweet by our SAR NGO colleagues SOS Méditerranée. Yesterday we had already heard about a woman and child dying while attempting to cross the Med. Suffice to say it’s not quite a premonition to get a weird feeling in your gut whenever you receive a tweet from the search-and-rescue zone in the Mediterranean Sea. As soon as I read the first few words I could feel myself choking up. I clenched my jaw. An all too familiar feeling, since having started to participate in civil sea rescue three years ago.

Sophie Weidenhiller

In that tweet, the NGO reports that “after hours of search, [their] worst fear has come true”. They are talking about one of the search-and-rescue cases that they were alerted to: 130 people aboard an unseaworthy boat in the middle of the central Mediterranean in rough seas. They tried their best to save those people but were forced to experience what is the worst fear for anyone in sea rescue: they were too late.

Ca. 130 human lives were lost at sea, again. There was no state-side support for the search and the rescue of these persons, all authorities refused to take responsibility to prevent this loss of life, as they have so comfortably accustomed themselves to.

Only the lifeless bodies of some of the people were recovered by the Ocean Viking crew. The crew aboard this rescue vessel had to face tonight, what European politicians refuse to face: man-made human suffering beyond imagination.

This keeps happening to me: I write about civil sea-rescue I research the number of victims who died up to the current day. And almost every time, from the time I start writing a text, like this very one you are reading right now, till my colleagues have proofread it or an interview gets published by the media: the number has already increased. Only hours ago I gave a radio interview and reported about the 448 deaths this year so far. Shortly after, I checked again and the IOM’s missing migrants page already displayed 450 people who died. Although, that’s not even including the victims SOS Méditerranée and Alarmphone just informed us about. These yellow numbers on a blue background and map of the space between Africa and Europe – it has become an agonizing ticker to me: a constant reminder of how we continue to fail to protect those most in need of rescue, protection and support.

Human rights don’t just end at our borders – but it is where they are currently drowned.

In 2021, hundreds of people have died already trying to save their lives and make it to safety but have instead lost their lives, due to the reckless, cruel, inhumane and deadly so-called EU Migration and Asylum policies. And the death toll would have been even higher if it weren’t for civil sea rescue organizations – like our brave and dedicated colleagues – who won’t give up or back down and continue to conduct sea rescue missions no matter what complications they face.

More than twice as many people have died while trying to cross the Med this year, compared to last year. More than twice as many have died in total, than during the same period in 2020. This route is getting deadlier by the day, while the EU refuses to do abide by international laws or even show simple human decency and while the responsible authorities sit idly by, an accessory to this intentional negligence.

I salute the crew of the Ocean Viking, I hope it somehow suffices for them to know that at least they tried their very best. I cannot even imagine how they must feel, only being able to salvage bodies, the fear of death still etched into their faces, instead of being able to provide assistance to living, breathing human beings.

I feel enraged, I feel deeply saddened. I feel frustrated. I feel many things. I will continue to feel it all, every single time with every single death notice. Because I refuse to get used to this. I cannot and I will not. Ever. And I know that there are so many people who feel the same way. And this is crucial: because it is not about me, not in the least. It is about the people who lost everything they had including their literal lives. We need to continue feeling sad and we need to stay angry, stay vigilant, we must not stop caring. However, these feelings need to guide us into action. We must act. We need to stand up for the people who die at our borders, at the will of our politicians, and we need to be loud and clear: We do not want or accept these deaths to occur. We, as Europeans need to do better. Now!

Sophie Weidenhiller

Finally, and most importantly, my thoughts, my prayers, my heart goes out to the ones who lost their lives today, in such a tragic, preventable way. Those who cried for help and no one came, no one made it in time. The same goes for every single person who has suffered such a fate or has lost a loved one to this madness we dare call border policies. I know there’s nothing anyone can say or do to ease their pain or to bring anyone back to life.

The only thing that we can do is to promise to do better, to help better, to be better allies, to continue to fight for human rights and to prevent the loss of life at sea as best we can.

Europe, we can do better. We must do better.

Sophie Weidenhiller,
Intl. spokesperson for  Sea-Eye, SEA-EYE 4 crew member, but most of all: fellow human


Photos from a rescue mission involving Sophie Weidenhiller from 2018.

The departure of the SEA-EYE 4 was a heartfelt moment for all of us and we would like to share it with you. For this purpose, we filmed the casting off of the ship and the first few miles of its journey. Enjoy the video!

Sea-Eye and United4Rescue are sending the SEA-EYE 4 to the Mediterranean

The new rescue ship SEA-EYE 4 left its shipyard in Rostock on Saturday morning, April 17, 2021, and set sail for the Mediterranean. The rescue ship had been overhauled and upgraded for six months by ca. 250 volunteers in preparation for its first mission. A few days ago the SEA-EYE 4 received the German flag and the German flag state administration gave the green light for the start of operations. The arrival of the SEA-EYE 4 in Spain is scheduled for the end of April, from there it will set out on its first rescue mission as quickly as possible.

“People have been dying in the Mediterranean Sea for many years. At least 406 deaths were recorded in 2021 already. The departure of the SEA-EYE 4 is an important signal from a broad civil society alliance to the EU member states. Letting people drown in the Mediterranean in order to reduce the number of asylum applications in Europe and to deter others from fleeing is inhuman. This irresponsible policy lacks support from civil society. United4Rescue with its 744 alliance partners, the Protestant and Catholic Church and thousands of donors have made this clear again today,” says Gorden Isler, Chairman of Sea-Eye e. V.


Financial tailwind from large parts of civil society

The purchase and upgrade of the rescue ship was largely made possible by United4Rescue, an alliance for civil sea rescue, and a substantial part of the mission costs are also covered by this alliance. The transfer of the SEA-EYE 4 into the Mediterranean is financed by donations from the Catholic (arch) dioceses of Munich and Freising, Paderborn and Trier.

“The SEA-EYE 4 is not just another rescue ship that saves people from drowning in the Mediterranean. It is also a symbol that we as United4Rescue, together with our many allies and supporters, will not let up in our commitment to humanity. We do not want to stand idly by and watch people dying in the Mediterranean Sea – that is why we are more than happy to be able to help send another ship – the SEA-EYE 4 – on rescue missions,” says Thies Gundlach, Chairman of United4Rescue.


“We would like to thank everyone who made it possible that another rescue ship can now set sail for the Mediterranean. Special thanks go to the many volunteer shipyard helpers, the many donors and our partners. It is only because everyone has worked together so well that we can now see a rescue ship in motion to further defend human rights against all odds,” said Isler.

Construction and equipment of the SEA-EYE 4

The construction type of the former offshore supply vessel is very well suited for sea rescue missions and offers a lot of space for the first aid of rescued people. The sickbay is up to par with modern standards and is also well prepared for coronavirus patients.

To carry out rescue missions, the SEA-EYE 4 has two cranes that can lower its two rescue boats safely and quickly into the water. In the event of a search and rescue case, these tenders will approach the people in need of rescue, distribute life jackets and evacuate the unseaworthy boats in distress.

The SEA-EYE 4 (built in 1972) is 53 m long, 11.5 m wide, has a top speed of 10.5 knots and will carry out its missions with up to 26 crew members.