FAQ 

SOS MEDITERRANEE Germany will operate under a new name in 2022: SOS Humanity.

This stands for the ongoing humanitarian emergency in the Mediterranean and our goal to make such that every person is rescued from distress at sea and treated with dignity. It is also a reminder and an appeal to the citizens of Europe not to accept the deaths of people fleeing over the Mediterranean.

Founded in 2015 in Berlin as SOS MEDITERANEE Deutschland e.V. and so far operating with the ships Aquarius and Ocean Viking, we want to ensure more humanity in the Mediterranean under the new name SOS Humanity. By the summer of 2022, we will launch our own new rescue ship to save more people from drowning: the fast and agile Humanity.

The core of our fundamental objectives remains unchanged: Saving lives is a duty – also in the Mediterranean!

Through intensified political work on land, we want to give more emphasis to this humanitarian imperative.

In 2021, a person died on average every six hours while fleeing via the central Mediterranean. The existing rescue capacities are far from sufficient – every ship is urgently needed.

That is why we, SOS MEDITERRANEE Germany, have decided to break away from the international network and focus our efforts on bringing a new, particularly fast, rescue ship to the Mediterranean. In order to achieve our goal of ensuring more humanity towards people fleeing at sea, we have sought a name that reflects this. From January 2022, we will continue our work as a civilian seaerch and rescue organisation as SOS Humanity. Our new ship will be called Humanity.

Independently, we are more flexible and efficient. It will also be more successful to return to the founding idea of saving lives not only at sea but also on land. As SOS Humanity, we will strengthen our political work.

To bring a new ship requires that all the staff of the German association as well as all the financial resources are concentrated on this. This will enable us to acquire our own rescue ship, which we are now fully committed to purchasing, modifying, equipping and operating. For the purpose is that the rescue ship Humanity be on a rescue mission in the central Mediterranean by mid-2022. With the experience and expertise we have gained in six years of operation and with the support of civil society, we can thus contribute directly to our founding vision that all people in distress at sea can be rescued.

We remain who we are.

We remain who we are SOS Humanity continues to be registered under the association name SOS MEDITERRANEE Deutschland e.V. We are building on our history since SOS MEDITERRANEE Deutschland was founded by Captain and historian Dr Klaus Vogel in Berlin in 2015. Our values and statutory objectives and tasks also remain the same: saving people from drowning, providing emergency humanitarian care on board and bearing witness to the situation on the ground. At the same time, we want to further expand our political work on land and thus, added another a fourth mission to the existing three (rescue, protect and accompany, testify): change.

We believe that it is not enough to act in a purely humanitarian way – people are also saved by political decisions on land. In addition to rescuing at sea, we therefore want to increasingly educate the public. We want to better communicate the abuses we witness at sea, breaches of law and the deadly consequences of a failed EU migration policy, because they are a scandal and deeply inhumane.

For example, it is still hardly known that the EU is building up and financing the Libyan coast guard, which violates maritime law by intercepting and pulling back tens of thousands of fleeing people – this is a breach of international law through the back door, for which we want to hold the EU accountable as a civilian actor. We demand from the new German government that it resolutely advocates for a European sea rescue programme: People in distress at sea must be reliably rescued and brought to a safe place as quickly as possible – as prescribed by international maritime law.

The humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean is unresolved, people fleeing are left to drown. Every additional rescue ship is urgently needed.

European states have largely withdrawn from rescuing people in distress in the central Mediterranean. Civilian search and rescue organisations, which are doing everything they can to fill the gap, continue to be blocked. The at least 1,503 deaths last year show how urgently additional rescue ships are needed to stop the dying on Europe’s doorstep.

Our six years of operational experience in search and rescue in the Mediterranean have shown: The more diverse the civilian rescue fleet, the more efficient it can be. The likelihood increases that at least one organisation will be on the scene with its ship, able to save lives and witness the situation on the ground.

With our new, particularly fast ship, we not only want to expand the urgently needed rescue capacities, but also sensibly supplement the existing civilian fleet in order to save as many people as possible from drowning.

In rescue operations, every second counts and every delay can cost lives.

With a faster, more manoeuvrable ship, we can reach emergencies more quickly. With a speed of up to 26 knots, the Humanity will be able to be much faster in an emergency at sea. Especially in such a large operational area as the search and rescue zones in the central Mediterranean, this will save vital time.

A Fast Support and Intervention Vessel (FSIV) is not only twice as fast as the other rescue vessels on the ground – italso meets all the requirements for our life-saving mission in the central Mediterranean. More information on Humanity’s concept can be read here.

The ship’s name “Humanity” is a compass, a reminder and a call at the same time.

With this rescue ship, we want to bring more humanity to the Mediterranean and at the same time appeal to politics and society to dare to be more humane in dealing with people fleeing across the Mediterranean. The name of the new rescue ship is almost identical to our new name under which we will operate from January: SOS Humanity.

The future team on board will consist of 19 people. It will consist of a search and rescue team, a medical team and a nautical ship’s crew.

You are interested in joining our crew?

LINK to the ship’s page / Crewing

We want to start life-saving operations at sea with the new ship by mid-2022.

We have been talking to ship brokers and shipping companies about buying the ship for some time and already have concrete, interesting offers.

The start-up financing is also in place, and as soon as the purchase is completed, the ship will be transferred to a shipyard and modified for rescue operations. In the process, additional rescue equipment and superstructures such as shelters will have to be installed to accommodate the rescued.

We are trying to purchase the ship and the subsequent conversion as soon as possible.

The costs for the purchase, modification and equipping with rescue equipment, as well as certification as a rescue ship, amount to approximately 2 million euros. Start-up financing has already been secured.

The costs for our operations, including teams, equipment, supplies and medical assistance on board, amount to approximately 5,600 euros per day.

SOS Humanity – SOS MEDITERRANEE Deutschland e.V. is a non-profit association and is mainly financed by donations from civil society.

With your donation you support the purchase and modification of our own fast rescue ship and help with the purchase of rescue equipment.

From mid-2022 onwards, donations received will be used to finance the rescue missions and, of course, other important aspects of the work carried out by SOS Humanity.

The Mediterranean Sea is one of the deadliest borders in the world. Tens of thousands of people have drowned or are considered missing in the Mediterranean since 2000. How many never arrived to a safe place because their unseaworthy and heavily overstaffed boats sank without witnesses and disappeared without a trace, we do not know.

At the same time, the European Union has still not found a solution to end the deaths in the Mediterranean. Due to a lack of alternatives, most people are forced to venture on the dangerous flight route across the Mediterranean to escape the horrific Libyan detention camps. The existing rescue capacities are completely insufficient – more rescue ships are urgently needed.

SOS Humanity was founded as SOS MEDITERRANEE Deutschland e.V. on 9 May 2015 by the German captain and PhD historian Klaus Vogel in the conviction that no one should drown in the Mediterranean – regardless of origin, ethnicity and reasons for fleeing.

A group of committed citizens from European civil society, including professional seafarers and humanitarian aid workers, wanted to do something about the lack of rescue capacities in the Mediterranean. Between 2016 and 2021, SOS MEDITERRANEE rescued 34,631 children, women and men from distress at sea and brought them to a safe place.

In 2021, more than 1,500 children, women and men drowned or went missing in the central Mediterranean. The European states have largely withdrawn from sea rescue operations for years. Instead, they have built up the Libyan coast guard to intercept people seeking protection at sea and force them back to Libya: a violation of current international law.

Without the commitment of civil society, many more people would drown unseen at Europe’s borders. Above all, civilian search and rescue organisations take on the task that European states avoid: rescuing people from distress at sea and bringing them to a safe place, as prescribed by the law of the sea. They are also the eyes and ears of civil society. They testify about the situation on the ground, inform the public and increase the pressure on political decision-makers to respect human rights and the law of the sea in the Mediterranean.

The duty of rescue at sea applies equally to all ships and everywhere at sea.

The rescue of people from distress at sea is deeply anchored in maritime tradition as a human duty and bindingly regulated in three international treaties: the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS, 1974), the International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue (SAR, 1979) and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS, 1982). These treaties are supplemented by guidelines of the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

Assistance must be provided to all people in distress at sea, regardless of their nationality, status or the circumstances in which they are found [SAR, UNCLOS]. Rescue at sea involves rescuing people, taking care of them and bringing them to a place of safety as quickly as possible [SAR, UNCLOS]. At a place of safety, those rescued must not be exposed to any danger to life or limb. Basic needs such as food, shelter and medical care must be ensured [IMO, MSC.167(78)]. T The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR, 1953) and the Geneva Refugee Convention (GRC, 1954) also stipulate that people may not be returned to a country with a precarious human rights situation (prohibition of refoulement).

Coastal states are obliged to establish an effective search and rescue emergency centre and to make the necessary capacities available for rescues (UNCLOS). They are also responsible for coordinating rescue operations and assigning a safe location to those rescued [SAR, IMO, MSC.167(78)]. The core of this obligation is the establishment of a rescue coordination centre. This must be available 24 hours a day and staffed by English-speaking personnel [IMO, MSC.70(69)].

On the ground, however, we have repeatedly observed how state actors circumvent their obligations under international law and systematically violate human rights: Rescue coordination centres do not respond or respond too late, they do not fulfil their duty of coordination. Furthermore, emergency calls remain unanswered and are not forwarded. Instead, the EU cooperates with the dubious Libyan coast guard, which forces refugees back into the country in violation of international law. More on this can be read in our report “International law overboard” in German only).