The legal basis for our rescue missions in the Mediterranean is the „United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea“, UNCLOS of December 10th 1982: “Every State shall require the master of a ship flying its flag, in so far as he can do so without serious danger to the ship, the crew or the passengers: (a) to render assistance to any person found at sea in fatal danger.“¹

2 Who do you rescue?

We rescue people whose lives are in danger on the Mediterranean. Who these rescued people are is irrelevant as every human deserves to be rescued on the basis of human rights.²

3 How do you rescue these people?

The coordination of the rescue operations in the Mediterranean is conducted by the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre, situated in Rome. We are informed about ships in distress via radio or we report back if we sight a ship in distress. Subsequently we will approach the endangered vessel and enquire the number of pregnant women and children on board, as they have priority in being rescued. We take everyone on board and provide them with food, drinking water and medical first aid.

4 Where is your ship operating?

Our Ship is patrolling on the Mediterranean between Libya and Italy. The Sea route is deemed a central Mediterranean route, through which the populace of refugees attempt to reach Europe. Most of the rescue operations take place inside the 24 nautical mile area, although outside of Libyan territorial waters.

5 Where do the people who escape via the central Mediteranean route come from?

The IOM reported that in 2016 the majority of people taking that route come from Nigeria, Eritrea and Guinea.³

6 Where do you take the people after the rescue?

While on our rescue missions we don't leave the search and rescue zone and don't transfer the rescued people. In accordance with instructions by the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre Rom and with agreements with other actors in the search and rescue zone we hand over the rescued people to larger ships, which transfer them to Italy.

7 Why would you take over the rescue operations?

5098 People died on the Mediterranean in 2016, 4581 of them on the central Mediterranean route. There has not been a universal state rescue program on the Mediterranean since the end of Mare Nostrum in 2014. Instead came Frontex with its Mission Triton mission, who is ostensibly responsible for securing the external borders of Europe. As there has not been any sufficient rescue efforts on behalf of the state, we are compelled and feel urged to become involved.

8 What is Mare Nostrum?

Mare Nostrum was the Italian Sea rescue operation which was conducted by the Italian Marine. It came into existence in response to the accident that occurred close to the Isle of Lampedusa in which 360 people from Somalia and Eritrea died. In only one year 130.000 people, who were escaping, were rescued through these Operations. The Rescue missions took place also on Libyan waters. Due to a lack of financial support from other European States, the monthly 9 million euro costing program was halted by the Italian government.

9 What is Frontex?

Frontex is a European border protection agency with its headquarters in Warsaw, whose task is to coordinate the operations on external EU-borders. An important goal of the Agency is to combat the irregular ('illegal') immigration through external EU borders.

10 What is Triton?

Triton is the currently running Frontex operation to secure the borders on the Italian coast, in place since November 2014. Ostensibly rescue missions are invested in with a third of the budget allocated for Mare Nostrum. The focus of the operation is the control of external European borders. After another catastrophe on the Mediterranean, the allocated budget to triton was raised to 9 million euros monthly. The Operating space is just like before restricted to the vicinity of the Italian coast.

11 What ist EUNAFOR Med/ Sophia?

Early in the year of 2015 the EU decided in a special meeting for the EUNAVFOR Med Operation. The objective of the operation is to identify and destroy human trafficking networks. “The Operation plan is mainly devised to find the ships of traffickers, to raise and confiscate them. In the third phase all necessary measures against traffickers, particularly their boats and facilities, are taken, even on foreign territory.” As before there has not been a Sea rescue program from the EU.

12 What does the German government do in order to improve the situation in the Mediterranean?

In May 2015 Germany sent two Marine ships to the Mediterranean with the task of sea rescue mission. Since the 30th of July both ships belong to the EU Mission EUNAVFOR Med and are officially not anymore “only” for rescuing people in danger on the seas, but in operation above all else for objective combatting of human trafficking.

13 Aren't you supporting smugglers with your actions?

The humanitarian catastrophe taking place in the Mediterranean is often credited to so called smuggler networks. This is a false conclusion as people are to fleeing because there are smugglers. Instead there are smugglers because people are forced to flee. They are fleeing from war, violence and repression. The lack of legal routes into Europe is forcing humans to trust smugglers with their lives. That way, criminals can run a profitable business on their despair. What kind of distress is someone going through to put themselves on a tiny dinghy across the Mediterranean Sea? In such a kind of business smugglers make profits regardless of whether there are rescue missions or not. We are convinced that only legal migration routes to Europe can make a change towards a more human situation. As long as the status quo stands we will continue our rescue missions. There is no justification for holding political debates above human lives.

15 Why is the youth aspect so important to you?

With our organization we show that young people are able to move something without a big umbrella organization in the back. But we do not only speak to young adults as their possibilities to change world problems are often underestimated. Furthermore the youth aspect is making us stronger regarding our political demand: If even us young people manage to finance a ship, why doesn’t the German government manage to do so?

16 Why is in a time like that, a ship the on the Mediterranean most important?

The Mediterranean has become a symbol of European Isolation policy: Despite of human lives being at risk every day on the Mediterranean there's no state-run rescue program. The focus lies on securing borders and on uncovering smuggler networks. Our ship is a strong symbol against the European indifference to the dying in the Mediterranean. The right to life and security applies to everyone, everywhere.

17 Why do we accept private donations only?

We belief that the ongoing deaths on the Mediterranean have a political cause. Therefore, the solutions can only be political. The ones responsible are not private citizens but state actors. We are giving immediate help where states are neglecting their responsibilities. While we are doing this we do not wish to take those responsibilties from them. States themselves need to end the onging deaths.

For us that includes that states use their ressources for solutions directly, instead of helping NGOs like ours. This also guarantees our independence. Consequently the only way left for us to fund ourselves is support through private donations.


Art. 98 §1 UNCLOS








See: Pro Asyl: Europas Schande: „Triton“ und „Mare Nostrum“ im Vergleich. October 2014.


See: Frontex: Legal Basis, unter: http://frontex.europa.eu/about-frontex/legal-basis/ (09/15/15).
See: Frontex: Mission and Tasks, unter: http://frontex.europa.eu/about-frontex/mission-and-tasks/ (09/15/15).


See: Bötel, Frank; Kietzmann, Victoria: Leben retten, Schleuser bekämpfen: Neuer EU-Einsatz im Mittelmeer. Berlin, 07/01/2015.


See: Bötel, Frank; Kietzmann, Victoria: Leben retten, Schleuser bekämpfen: Neuer EU-Einsatz im Mittelmeer. Berlin, 07/01/2015.