“Thousands of people have drowned”

By Karlheinz Fahlbusch.

Meßkirch, Germany. Thomas Nuding about his rescue mission in the Mediterranean. He will work as skipper on the ‘Sea-Eye‘.

There are 60 to 80 million refugees globally. In order to help them, “aid organisations are necessary because politicians everywhere keep out of the issue,” Thomas Nuding says. During a presentation in the local fire station he demonstrates what this kind of help looks like in practice. He is an engineer specialised on heating and sanitary systems as well as a district councillor. By the beginning of April he will be on mission as skipper on the Sea-Eye.

Nuding has been a skipper for 30 years, mainly on the Bodensee (lake in Southern Germany), and he owns several shipping patents. When he heard about the rescue organisation Sea-Eye, he decided; “I will take part.” At first he considered it an adventure. By now he knows; “It is a necessity.” Last autumn already he was on a mission with the boat in the Mediterranean in order to rescue refugees from flimsy boats. Why does one rescue refugees and take them to Europe? “Enough of them are already here,” some Europeans would say. Nuding does not share this attitude. “You cannot hold it against any of them. These people live in the most unfavourable conditions. They escape to Libya,” he says. There they get put onto the boats and have to pay extremely high amounts to the traffickers. “3,000 euros is quite possible,” the skipper reports. Those who refuse to enter a boat get shot. “No one deserves to drown in the Mediterranean. I do not want to spend a holiday in Malta in the knowledge that 10-12,000 people have drowned there.” Nuding is convinced: “If no one helped, there would be 100,000 deaths.”

“The traffickers follow the boats and remove the engines so as to use them again. The quality of the boats is extremely poor. And most people are not able to swim, nor do they have proper life vests.” Conclusion: those who go overboard have no chance of survival.

The Sea-Eye is 60 years old and operates in the Mediterranean between Libya and Lampedusa. Once a refugee boat is secured, the crew transfer the passengers to the Italian coast guard, who take them to Sicily, to an arrival camp. Nuding talks without pathos. He throws in information that most laypersons are not aware of. He also informs about other aid organisations, like Doctors without Borders, who also rescue people. And he describes operations like the following one:

“In the morning some fishermen informed us that close by some boats were drifting. Once the first boat had been located, the situation was clear: more than 100 people were sitting on an eight by three metres boat. The engine was already gone. The boat’s condition was poor. The boats are always so overcrowded that people are also sitting on the tubes. Often there are also injured people and dead bodies in these boats. Our boat cannot approach too closely so as not to run the risk that people try to enter our boat and theirs capsizes,” the skipper from Meßkirch explains. A small dinghy is put to sea to take the life vests to the boat refugees.

Further steps are only taken once everyone has a life vest. Salt water, petrol from canisters and urine on the boats’ floors produce a mixture which reacts almost like hydrochloric acid and burns the skin. Injured people are even worse off. There are screws sticking out of the floors. During that particular operation, the refugees had to be taken on board the Sea-Eye and it got very crowded. No space, no blankets, 150 square metres of deck area and bad weather. But during the next day an Italian ship took on the refugees after great difficulties. And the Navy? “They only serve to put a stop to the traffickers’ game,” Nuding says with palpable scepticism.

Source: Südkurier, Germany



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