“The alternative option would be to let people drown.”

Sea-Eye has already rescued more than 5,500 people in the Mediterranean – and is occasionally treated with hostility, says Hans-Peter Buschheuer.

Are you assisting trafficking gangs with the Sea-Eye?

No, of course not. That is a political accusation, which we get from the political right wing, but also from Frontex. After all, the alternative option to our work would be to simply let people drown. And that really cannot be the humanitarian standard of our society.

But do you not encourage people to flee through your presence in the Mediterranean?

That is how it is often portrayed. But the reality is entirely different. The people who gather at the Libyan coast to risk undertaking the perilous journey across the Mediterranean have already been on their way for months or years. Fleeing war and death in their countries – and not because they so much wanted to come to Europe. Sea-Eye is only a straw that they grasp in order to save themselves. Our rescue boats are no taxis. To think that is cynical.

How did your organisation come into being?

We founded it in 2015 in reaction to the termination of “Mare Nostrum.” The Italian navy operation saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of refugees. But then it was stopped. The reason? The well-known accusation: the rescuers  cause the arrival of refugees. But: up to now countless refugees are continuing to set off on their journey to Europe – and risk drowning in the Mediterranean. Therefore the assumption was wrong.

How many people have you rescued?

Exactly 5,568.

Do people appreciate that – in times of the refugee crisis?

Nothing has changed. Those who hated us before still hate us. And those who have a humanitarian standard still stand by us. This is proved by the unchanged level of donations.

Interview by Pascal Becher / Source: Saarbrücker Zeitung, Germany

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