Three people from Regensburg on the Sea-Eye.

Arne Schmidt, Nathalie Decuypere and David Stahl are ready to go on mission. They will rescue refugees off Libya.

By Daniel Geradtz.

Regensburg, Germany. It is no easy task which they are facing. On 23 March, the Sea-Eye’s second mission of the year will start. It will include three people from Regensburg. Arne Schmidt, Nathalie Decuypere and David Stahl will be working in the maritime area off Libya with six other aid workers, in order to rescue refugees in distress.

“You only start to imagine what you are facing when it really starts,” Decuypere says. Last year she gained experience in the base camp in Malta. Her mission there lasted six weeks; the upcoming Sea-Eye mission will go on for two weeks. Even though the time in Malta was very challenging, she says that her renewed commitment was never in question. “I did need a break, but I attended every meeting and tried to do what I could,” she says. Even apart from missions, the organisation, which was founded by Michael Buschheuer in Regensburg, needs support from  volunteer helpers.

Nathalie Decuypere believes that the time on the rescue boat will not only be physically challenging. “We will be in an extreme situation in a very confined space. Whatever happens there can develop into a problem. But I am lucky in that I already know some of the people,” she says. Arne Schmidt confirms this. He already headed a mission last year as a skipper. “Tensions in the team can be very tiring,” he says. He is convinced that his group will turn into a good team. Already during his last mission the crew lived and worked harmoniously.

Schmidt has many years of experience as a skipper. He has crossed the Atlantic nine times. Given this expertise, he believes that he had no excuse for not making a commitment. “I have been part of it from the beginning,” he says about project Sea-Eye. His experience at the high seas has been an advantage in this responsible position. The skipper holds responsibility for the entire mission. He also has to ensure that the mission goes off in a politically correct manner. He considers it his obligation to help when politicians are not doing enough.

Schmidt says that he was “pretty exhausted” after his first mission. Last year they rescued 1,250 people in distress during the first few days. After that the crew had a few relatively quiet days. But in the worst case a mission goes on at full speed for 14 days.

The crews on the former fishing cutter alternate regularly, but the boat does not stop. Almost without break it is handed over by one crew to the next. When the new crew will take over the Sea-Eye on 22 March, they will leave already the next day. “I hope that we will be able to hand over the Sea-Eye in good condition afterwards,” says carpenter and restaurateur Schmidt.

He will arrive in Malta two days before the mission. The mission will start from there. He will have no time to prepare or to visit. Already last time he did not see much of the island. His colleague Nathalie Decuypere plans to travel to Malta a bit earlier.

“Going directly from my daily stress into the mission would be too much for me. I look forward to the mission, but I need time to prepare.” Nathalie Decuypere wants to use the time to gather strength.

The 60-year-old Sea-Eye has been operating for the organisation since 22 February 2016. During the past missions, the crews rescued more than 5,500 people in distress. For a short time the organisation had a second boat, the “Speedy.” But this boat was seized by the Libyan coast guard and the crew arrested. The crew were released after a few days, but the boat remains lost.

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