Rescue ship: ALAN KURDI

Sea-Eye condemns German conception of a European solution”

  • ALAN KURDI returns for another mission after four months
  • Spanish authorities support the view of the German authorities
  • Sea-Eye criticizes German engagement after the fire in Moria
  • Sea-Eye appeals to home port city of Hamburg

ALAN KURDI returns for another mission after four months

After a four months long forced break, the Sea-Eye rescue ship ALAN KURDI returns to sea for its next mission. It left the Spanish port of Burriana on Friday evening. After the last rescue of 150 people, Italian authorities had detained the ALAN KURDI in Palermo at the beginning of May, during the Corona-crisis. In August, Sea-Eye filed a lawsuit against this administrative act before the administrative court in Palermo, the verdict is still pending. The forced detention by the Italian authorities prevented a total of three of the ship’s planned missions. According to the IOM, 252 people drowned in the ALAN KURDI’s operational area during this period.

Spanish authorities support the view of the German authorities

Immediately after the detention, the responsible flag state authority in Germany confirmed that the ALAN KURDI is correctly equipped and certified according to its category. Sea-Eye used the forced break to make numerous technical improvements to the ship. The Spanish port state has now affirmed the position of the German flag state authority. After checking the technical equipment and certification by an extensive port state control, Spain granted the ALAN KURDI permission to cast off and informed the German and Italian authorities.

“There was no objection from Italy on Friday. But we have to expect discussions about sewage systems and yet another port state control by the Italian authorities”, said Gorden Isler, chairman of Sea-Eye e. V.

Sea-Eye criticizes German engagement after the fire in Moria

The ‘European solution’ is a fairy tale which implies that something good is still to come. We have been witnessing the actual, European solution for 5 years. 20,000 dead in the Mediterranean, 12,000 people seeking protection in Moria and 69 deportations on the 69th birthday of our Interior Minister, Horst Seehofer”, says Isler about the German federal government’s commitment to the fire disaster in the Moria refugee camp.

The Federal Minister of the Interior said in a session of the Bundestag on Friday that Germany was ready to evacuate up to 150 children from Lesbos. He called this measure i.a. “an act of Christian charity”. There is still no solution for the more than 12,000 homeless people seeking protection on Lesbos.

Sea-Eye appeals to home port city of Hamburg

Immediately after the fire in Moria, various federal states declared their willingness to evacuate people from Lesbos. North Rhine-Westphalia would be ready to evacuate a total of 1,000 people. In the meantime, various federal states are working on a Federal Council initiative that aims to enable the federal states themselves to help directly and to evacuate people. Berlin and Thuringia started the Federal Council initiative. Hamburg would now be the one to tip the scales. The expectations of Hamburg are high, since the politically Red and Green Hamburg has already declared itself a safe harbor.

Such a declaration increases the responsibility to seize the opportunity and to join this historic Federal Council initiative”, says Gorden Isler, Chairman of Sea-Eye.

In one week, the Federal Council initiative will be voted on in a plenary session of the Federal Council, under ITEM11. Immediately after the disaster, the Hamburg Senator of the Interior Andy Grote declared that Hamburg was ready to take people in. If the other senators of the Hamburg SPD follow him, the approval of the Green government partner should be nothing more than a matter of form.

Hamburg is the home port of several NGO rescue ships. Now we are appealing to the Hanseatic city itself not to ignore this humanitarian tipping point and to flip the switch in the Federal Council for a human rights-based policy”, Isler continues.

The GHALIB KURDI will be deployed before the end of this year

  • Fifth anniversary of the death of Alan, Ghalib and Rehanna Kurdi
  • New campaign ‘Ehrlich gesagt’ (‘Honestly speaking’)
  • Regensburg becomes home port of GHALIB KURDI

At a press conference in Regensburg on Tuesday morning, civil sea rescue organization Sea-Eye announced its plans to purchase a new rescue vessel and to deploy it before the end of this year. The new ship will be named GHALIB KURDI in memory of Alan Kurdi’s older brother, who also drowned five years ago. The family of the deceased children strongly support Sea-Eye’s cause and intends to become even more involved with Sea-Eye in the future.

“We could not save our own family. Let’s save the others,” Tima Kurdi stated at the opening of the press conference.

Since November 2019, the Italian Coast Guard has been entangling Sea-Eye in technical disputes. Italian officials have criticized the ship for not having sufficient sewage and waste disposal capacities on board. Even the fact that the competent German authorities strongly refuted this did not help. In August 2020, Sea-Eye had to file an urgent procedure lawsuit with the administrative court in Palermo. Sea-Eye expects a ruling in the coming weeks.

“Already in November 2019 it became clear to us that Italy will increasingly try to argue in this direction. Anticipating this, a project team has been working since February to find a larger ship that meets all requirements. Regardless of whether these are justified or not. We want to save people from drowning. The only way to do this is to send our ships to sea. That is why we need the GHALIB KURDI,” Gorden Isler states, Chairman of Sea-Eye.

In July, the general assembly of the civil sea rescue organization already gave the green light at a meeting in Erfurt and instructed the board to go ahead with the plans. In the meantime, Sea-Eye has selected a ship and agreed on a purchase price with a German shipowner. Sea-Eye’s donors and supporters have already ensured the financing of the purchase. Among other donors, the Catholic Church is also a big supporter of the project. Currently, Sea-Eye is drawing up the shipyard plan for equipping the ship and is preparing the contracts for the transfer of ownership. The ship will be presented to the public after the transfer of ownership. At the same time, Sea-Eye will introduce new partner organizations that will accompany Sea-Eye’s missions in the future.

“The increasing difficulties are likely to become tough for individual organizations to cope with alone. We are therefore talking to various experienced organizations about sharing tasks and responsibilities,” continues Isler.

Fifth anniversary of the death of Alan, Ghalib and Rehanna Kurdi

September 2nd 2020 marks the fifth anniversary of the death of Alan Kurdi. The picture of the drowned two-year-old boy gained sad notoriety. Meanwhile, hardly any attention was paid to the fact that the lifeless body of the two years older brother Ghalib was found a few hundred metres away next to the also drowned mother Rehanna. In an interview the father Abdullah Kurdi later quoted the last words of his son Ghalib: “Don’t be afraid father.”

Abdullah’s sister Tima Kurdi wrote down the family’ history. Her book “The Boy on the Beach” will be published in German bookstores in October. Since the family tragedy, she uses her voice to stand up for the rights of refugees and people seeking protection. Over the past five years, the EU member states have continued to focus on closing borders and deterrence. In recent years, some 20,000 more people have drowned in the Mediterranean. Armed Libyan militias now serve as bouncers for the EU and living conditions in the refugee camps on the Greek islands can only be described as inhumane and cruel.

“In the last five years, many people in Germany have committed themselves to helping refugees. Europe must now work to end the war in my home country. Europe must return to a human rights-based course and create humanitarian corridors,” Tima Kurdi states.

New campaign ‘Ehrlich gesagt’ – ‘Honestly speaking’

In order to raise funds for the ALAN KURDI and GHALIB KURDI missions, Sea-Eye is launching the ‘Ehrlich gesagt’ (‘Honestly speaking’) campaign on September 3rd. The concept comes from the Hamburg agency Grabarz & Partner and was presented at the press conference by Alexander Baron.

“We are not merely doing our job, we are also committed to society. And since we don’t go on a mission ourselves, we at least try to do everything we can to ensure that Sea-Eye can do it,” Baron states.

The campaign aims to convey its message in an emotional yet straight-forward and concise way, without relying on the typical use of pictures of sea rescuers or rescued people. The campaign will be billboarded in Regensburg, Munich, Berlin, and Cologne.

Home port Regensburg

Regensburg will be the home port of the new rescue ship, the same city where Sea-Eye e.V. was founded in October 2015 by Michael Buschheuer and friends. In addition, Regensburg was the first city in Bavaria to declare itself a “Safe Harbor” within the framework of the Seebrücke movement and the Potsdam Declaration.

“Many people from the African continent still set off in the direction of Europe via the sea because they hope to escape armed conflicts, terror, hunger and poverty. Rescue organizations such as Sea-Eye e.V., based in Regensburg, perform an important humanitarian task. I am very pleased that the GHALIB KURDI is the organization’s fourth ship to conduct rescue missions, and I am proud to call Regensburg its home port,” explains Regensburg’s Mayor Gertrud Maltz-Schwarzfischer, who also took part in the press conference.

In another symbolic gesture of support, the city agreed to the temporary renaming of two places. From September 3rd, the “Iron Bridge” will be named “Michael-Buschheuer-Bridge” for three months and the “Marc-Aurel-Ufer” will be renamed “Alan-and-Ghalib-Kurdi-Harbor”, after an idea of artist Dušan Zahoranský.

ALAN KURDI in port

The Italian authorities had previously detained ALAN KURDI

  • Sea-Eye files lawsuit against Italian Ministry of Transport and Palermo Port Authority
  • Legal opinion by law of the sea experts refutes Italian view
  • Italian Ministry of Transport counteracts international law

The Sea-Eye ship ALAN KURDI is currently in the Spanish port of Burriana. Previously, it was held in Palermo for over seven weeks. Sea-Eye has therefore already had to cancel three rescue missions. The Italian coast guard detained the ship after the rescue of 150 people on May 5, 2020 in Palermo, citing “serious safety deficiencies”. The Italian authorities later also detained Sea-Watch’s rescue ship the SEA-WATCH 3, the OCEAN VIKING of SOS Mediterranée, as well as the AITA MARI operated by Salvamento Marítimo Humanitario, on similar grounds. Sea-Eye has now filed a lawsuit.

“In our opinion, the decision made by the Italian authorities has to be considered illegal and creates legal uncertainties that aim to prevent further operations by ALAN KURDI. Sea rescue is an obligation under international law,” said Gorden Isler, Chairman of Sea-Eye e. V.

The Italian coast guard criticized that the NGO’s ships did not have enough sanitation and sewage systems and that they did not have sufficient safety certificates to regularly save so many people and bring them to an Italian port safely and in compliance with environmental regulations. The German flag state authority (BG Verkehr), which reports to the German Federal Ministry of Transport, however, negated this in the case of ALAN KURDI, immediately after the ship was detained in May 2020. BG Verkehr repeatedly confirmed that ALAN KURDI had the necessary safety certificates and also complied with the relevant environmental standards. As for the fact that there were significantly more people on board after the case of emergency of a rescue of people in distress at sea, the exceptions to environmental and safety regulations expressly included in the relevant international regulations to save life at sea took effect.

“It cannot be the case that a conflict is being constructed in which civilian actors now have to argue with state actors about how many people can even still be rescued,” Isler continues.

Legal opinion by law of the sea experts refutes Italian view

Maritime law experts from the Institute for Maritime Law and Maritime Law at the University of Hamburg prepared a brief legal opinion that addressed the alleged deficiencies that were raised in the course of the detention by the Italian coast guard. This report supports the legal opinion of BG Verkehr.

“To detain the ALAN KURDI, it should be said that some of the regulations not explicitly specified by the Italian authorities do not even exist in this form, which is why “SOLAS” is only “referenced to in an abstract way,” says Maritime law expert Valentin Schatz.

The Italian Ministry of Transport repeatedly argues that the operations of the NGOs are planned rescue operations and the ships must therefore be equipped accordingly, so that they can carry a large number of people on board, even during everyday operations. The fact that Italy does not recognize the current exceptions for sea rescue is not legally tenable.

“Even a ship like OCEAN VIKING, which has very large capacities and can undoubtedly be used as a professional rescue ship, is not enough for the Italian authorities if it saves more people than, for example, the ship’s waste water system or garbage management plan provides. Ignoring the fact that, even if one followed the Italian view in principle, encountering an emergency at sea with more than the permitted number of people remains an “unplanned incident.” If one thinks the Italian reasoning through, then all rescue ships operated by the state would have to be detained as well, because they regularly happen to save a larger number of people from drowning than they would be able to have on board during standard operations,” added Schatz.

The legal opinion of the Hamburg Maritime law experts served as the basis for Sea-Eye’s brief, which was filed with the Administrative Court in Palermo and was drawn up by Italian lawyers.

Italian Ministry of Transport counteracts international law

According to Art. 91 Para. 1 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea: “Each state determines the conditions under which it grants ships their nationality, enters them in the shipping register on their territory and grants them the right to fly their flag.” Germany has laid down such conditions in accordance with the applicable international conventions for safety at sea and marine environmental protection for the ALAN KURDI and only these stipulated regulations can be the basis for an inspection of the port state by Italy.

“Adapting the interpretation of international rules to one’s own political agenda in order to exert pressure on the flag states is a transparent, perfidious strategy and runs counter to international law,” said Isler.

In the past, former Italian interior minister Matteo Salvini de facto called on the other EU member states to amend their national laws if necessary so that they would suffice to prevent the aid organizations from rescuing the sea. The detention of four NGO ships and the construction of a technical dissent with the flag states Germany, Spain and Norway is a logical continuation of this Lega party policy.

“We have confidence in the Italian justice system, which now has to create legal clarity again. In order to be able to return to missions with legal certainty, we have applied for an urgent procedure,” says Isler.

Meanwhile, the United Nations reports that at least 29 people have drowned in the Mediterranean sea in the past few days.

ALAN KURDI in the Mediterranean

Maritime law expert speaks of illegal measures against Sea-Eye

  • Detention of the ALAN KURDI ends
  • Expert on maritime law cites Italy’s measures as unlawful
  • Sea-Eye considers appeal
  • 55,000 supporters demanded release
  • Church alliance bears blockade costs
  • ALAN KURDI may go to Spain

Since 5 May the Italian coast guard had detained the ALAN KURDI in the port of Palermo. Previously the ship had saved 150 lives in the international waters off Libya. After an eleven-day blockade and a subsequent two-week quarantine of the crew, the Italian coast guard claimed to have detected “serious safety deficiencies”.

As the German Ministry of Transport stated on 7 May already: “In the view of the German flag state administration, the irregularities detected by the Italian authorities do not concern serious safety deficiencies”.

The Italian argumentation aimed in particular at the allegedly inadequate sewage system, toilets and waste disposal facilities on the ship.

Expert on maritime law cites Italy’s measures as unlawful

Maritime law expert Valentin Schatz (Institute for the Law of the Sea and for Maritime Law, University of Hamburg) advised Sea-Eye together with other experts in the past weeks.

“The technical requirements imposed on the ALAN KURDI by the Italian Ministry of Transport do not correspond to the class of ship legally determined by the German authorities and disregard the exemptions for sea rescue in the relevant international conventions for the protection of the marine environment and the safety of maritime traffic. The unlawfulness of the Italian measures was challenged by the responsible office for ship safety of the German flag state authority against the Italian authorities, who were not impressed. The Federal Government should be aware that with such illegal detentions of German ships, Italy is also violating the rights of the Federal Republic of Germany as the flag state of ALAN KURDI, which are guaranteed under international law, and is damaging the reputation of the German flag,” states Schatz.

Sea-Eye will therefore promptly examine all possible legal remedies in order to provide clarity.

55,000 supporters demanded release

With the petition “Free the Ships” Sea-Eye demanded the release of the rescue ships ALAN KURDI and the Spanish ship AITA MARI, which was also detained in Palermo. More than 55,000 people joined this demand in a petition. Leoluca Orlando, Mayor of Palermo, personally appealed to the Italian Minister of Transport to ensure that the ships were not stopped.

Church alliance bears blockade costs

Overall, the blockade in the port of Palermo caused financial damage of around €70,000. Around € 20,000 are due for a special fee which is charged to “non-commercial ships” due to the corona crisis. The sea rescuers from Regensburg can bear the high costs thanks to financial support from the “United 4 Rescue” alliance initiated by the EKD (Evangelical Church in Germany).

ALAN KURDI may go to Spain

The ALAN KURDI is free again and is now heading for the Spanish coast. As Italy continues to maintain its legal position, Sea-Eye, in cooperation with the German authorities, will now determine the circumstances under which the vessel can sail on its next mission without being detained again by the Italian authorities.

“We are free, but not free from further trouble. We were threatened that we would surely be detained again,” states Gorden Isler, Chairman of Sea-Eye.

At a meeting in Rome, on June 10, Sea-Eye was able to agree with the Italian coast guard that the ALAN KURDI may leave the port of Palermo if the flag state consents and the Spanish authorities agree to the arrival of the ALAN KURDI. The German and Spanish authorities eventually agreed.

“We are grateful to the Spanish and German authorities for helping us to free ourselves from this devastating stranglehold,” states Isler further.

The legal uncertainty caused by Italy is now thwarting the ALAN KURDI’s planned deployment in July. Another, even longer blockade could ruin the association from Regensburg.

“We will find a solution, as we have succeeded time and again, and are determined to save human lives again soon,” concludes Isler.

In order to be able to defend ourselves against the measures before an Italian administrative court and to prepare the next mission, we are dependent on your donation. Because Sea-Eye’s work is only possible through donations. Will you help us?

ALAN KURDI in Palermo

Italy has been blocking our rescue ship ALAN KURDI and the Spanish ship AITA MARI for two weeks. At the same time people are dying in the Mediterranean Sea. Let us change this and sign the petition for the release of the ships.

ALAN KURDI in Palermo

On Tuesday evening Italian authorities arrested the ALAN KURDI in the port of Palermo. The grotesque argumentation for this is met with incomprehension not only by us. The German authorities also have no understanding for this action.

ALAN KURDI in the Mediterranean

At last! After 36 days at sea the ALAN KURDI is allowed to moor in Palermo. However, before the crew can disembark, some safety requirements must be met. Meanwhile, we ask ourselves, what happens to the people we saved?

Our human rights observer Stephen

Our human rights observer, Stephen, looked into the eyes of the rescued people and spoke to them about their flight. They talked about their motives and the many cruelties they had experienced. To deal with this, Stephen has his own technique.

Our captain Bärbel

Interview with Bärbel, Captain of the ALAN KURDI

Whenever I think of you, the old german nursery rhyme comes to my mind: “We anchored off Madagascar and had the plague on board”. Are there parallels?

I have to think more of Berthold Brecht “(…) a ship with eight sails and fifty cannons will be berthed at the quay”. But in all seriousness: I am annoyed at the moment and personally, I think the measures are unnecessary, because I am fairly sure that we do not actually have the plague or Corona on board.

But nerves are still on edge?

Yes, we just do not know what is going to happen. Instructions sometimes change day-by-day.

Is it then even possible for a Captain, who is bearing the responsibility after all, to sleep at night?

Well. Now again, yes. When the guests were on board, it was indeed very, very tough. But once the situation was solved and they were handed over to the Italian Red Cross, the tensions fell. Now, there is only the crew on board, and it functions great.

Is it very painful to be condemned to inactivity now?

When I read that boats with refugees left from Libya again and no one is being saved, then the rage is coming of course. While we are sentenced to doing nothing here, people are drowning there. An unbearable situation.

Suppose you had three free wishes when it comes to sea rescues – what would they be?

Greater support from the governments for civil sea rescues, functioning official sea rescue efforts, that handle the majority of this job, and a point of access where people can be brought – regardless of whether they were saved by civil organisations, commercial ships or indeed by official forces. This undignified haggling, this situation here on board until the distribution is finally decided, is tough to endure.

Our captain Bärbel

The psychological toll is surely immense, how do you deal with it?

We have extensive debriefs and spoke a lot with each other. As long as the rescue is ongoing and the people are on board, we are of course totally tense. We work almost around the clock and the few minutes in between are used for sleep. There is not much time to think. But from the moment that the refugees are off the boat, we start processing things. For this, we were given professional help from Sea-Eye. This time, unfortunately, only via video conference.

What comes next after the quarantine?

The quarantine is technically over today (Saturday). But it is the weekend here, and we can only get into the harbour if someone is there to do the Coronavirus test with us. And this after we have spent 14 days cut-off from the outside world on board. If they then find out that we do not have Corona – which, by the way, takes again 24 hours until the results are in – we can start disinfecting the ship, that takes another 48 hours. And when this is done, we are looking for a port where the ALAN KURDI can be handed over to the next crew.

Whether we then have to go again into quarantine in Germany is not entirely clear yet. Probably this will differ from state to state.

Are you at all afraid of Corona?

No. The likelihood that we were infected with Corona is extremely low. Seafaring is among the ten deadliest jobs in the world, so I am much more afraid of other things. The danger, for example, that I will suffer a stroke on board is much greater. And that we could not treat on board with our means.

Our captain Bärbel

What is the first thing you do once you are back at home?

Calling a shipping company to tell them that I can start my new job. Through the quarantine and this whole situation, my vacation has decreased to zero. From next week, even into the negative.

Very professional. Is there a return for you to the ALAN KURDI?

I can definitely imagine that, yes. I am now for the second time already on a sea rescue mission and also this situation cannot faze me.

What personal protection mechanisms do you have that the images do not follow you in your dreams?

On the first mission, the Libyans’ move to point guns at us, to shoot into the air did impress me a lot. This time not so much anymore. I thought: They shot into the air the last time, and if we show cojones (balls) now, we will make progress.

With this in mind, let us show that. Thank you so much for the talk!

(Interview: Martin Geiger)

We look at the faces of Filimon, Hdru, Omar, Debesay, Huruy and Mogos. The faces of young men between the ages of 18 and 25. They had their whole future ahead of them. They wanted to study and get jobs, start families, live in peace and safety. But they are dead. Drowned, starved and parched, having fled death, torture, war and violence.

Their deaths were viewed as collateral damage, if not mercilessly included in the plan itself. The people in charge simply did not and do not care, that these young men died. This is an assumption, it is polemic, but the facts speak for it.

What we know:

At the beginning of April (the ALAN KURDI is on a rescue mission), 63 refugees in a rubber boat set out on the dangerous route across the Mediterranean (see also “Starved, parched and drowned in a European search and rescue zone“). After a long odyssey they reach the Maltese search and rescue zone. Malta is obligated to save the refugees. It is applicable law: maritime law and human rights. These established rights cannot be overridden due to the pandemic. European judges have determined this.

However, Malta hired a dubious businessman to send an inconspicuous fishing boat to bring the refugees back to Libya. This campaign killed twelve people, including the young men shown here with photos and names.

Where do the photos come from? first published the names and photos of the refugees. The portal is an official website of the Vatican news agency and is known for dealing directly with the topic of migration. The journalists have good contacts to Libya and thus also to the survivors of the push-back. As a result, the photos were probably leaked to them.

The research was also confirmed by the “Times of Malta”, where these photos were also published. Both sources are considered trustworthy and reputable. We rely on these two sources for the publication, there is no 100% certainty.

Why do we show the photos?

Because the dead have a face and a name. They aren’t just numbers and statistics.

“There is a tendency in society that has pushed the whole discussion about flight and people fleeing extremely to the right. The culture of conversation about it has been dehumanizing. That too is violent. And if we show these pictures – the pictures of real people, of personal fates, the stories behind them – then we bring this discourse back to a humane level. I believe that this dehumanized image needs to be corrected and therefore it is right to show the images,” said Gorden Isler, Sea-Eye’s chairman.

Isler draws parallels to the publication of Alan Kurdi’s picture. Even back then it was important to publish this picture because it changed public discourse.

The Bishop of Malta, Charles Scicluna, believes that the publication of the pictures does not cross any moral boundaries.

“The victims of our politics and our indifference have names and faces like all of us,” said the bishop on Twitter.

A political scandal

Maltese government official Neville Gafá swore under oath that he had organized the push-back and another Easter campaign under the direction of the Prime Minister’s office.

“I confirm that I was involved in a mission during Easter night and the following days, in which a boat with 51 irregular migrants, including eight women and three minors, was brought to the port of Tripoli. There were five bodies on the same boat,” said Gafá. (Sources: Times of Malta,

He testified that he had acted on the instructions of the Prime Minister’s office. The latter had asked him to coordinate directly with the Libyan Ministry of the Interior and the Libyan Coast Guard. In addition, there is suspicion that there have been several illegal push-backs. In the meantime, criminal charges have been filed and there is said to be an official investigation.

(by Martin Geiger)