In 2015 thousands of people fled across the Mediterranean. Many of them died trying to escape war, violence and hunger. For many refugees their search for a dignified life ended deadly. Hundreds of people regularly drowned, when the unseaworthy boats filled with water. Parents lost their children and friends died side by side. Over the past years, thousands of refugees fought for survival in the waves.
As a reaction to the unacceptable deaths in the Mediterranean Sea, a group of people who did not want to stand by the dying on the Mediterranean Sea any longer, came together in Regensburg in autumn 2015, spearheaded by Michael Buschheuer with family and friends. They founded the association Sea-Eye e. V. Since then, their aim has been to find people in distress at sea and save them.
The first rescue ship of the association was the 26.5 m long fishing cutter SEA-EYE (built in 1958). Volunteers converted the ship at the shipyard in Rostock and transferred it to Sicily in February 2016. From then on, the SEA-EYE searched for maritime emergencies in the central Mediterranean and provided first aid. In the event of an emergency at sea, the main task of the SEA-EYE was to supply the refugees with life jackets and water. The ship’s on-board hospital treated medical emergencies. During more than 20 operations, the SEA-EYE saved the lives of over ten thousand people.
In the summer of 2018, the European Union had terminated all rescue operations in the Mediterranean. At the same time, many politicians actively fought against the civilian sea rescuers and criminalized their life-saving work. Under pressure from the then Italian Minister of the Interior Matteo Salvini of the right-wing populist party “Lega Nord”, the Dutch flag was withdrawn from our two ships SEA-EYE and SEEFUCHS.
This political move aimed at preventing Sea-Eye’s life-saving, humanitarian operations, as both ships had previously been duly registered in the Royal Netherlands Register of Shipping. The European states attempted to reduce the number of arrivals of protection-seekers by further tightening their restrictive border policies. Thus, they accepted the deaths of thousands of people in the Mediterranean. This seriously disregarded and violated the human rights of refugees.
In June 2019, the SEA-EYE was successfully transferred to Hamburg, where it has since served as a documentation ship for escape and rescue. As a former rescue ship, the SEA-EYE is now a memorial to Europe for respecting human rights and civil courage.
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