SOS Humanity publishes report “Humanity Overboard”

Foto eines RHIBs von SOS Humanity und mehreren Menschen mit Rettungswesten im Wasser
Alessio Cassaro / SOS Humanity

Berlin, Wednesday 19 June 2024: To mark World Refugee Day tomorrow, SOS Humanity is today publishing the report ‘Humanity Overboard’ with analyses of the ongoing humanitarian emergency in the Mediterranean. The report is based on operational data, testimonies from people rescued from distress at sea and the analysis of a survey conducted on board the rescue ship Humanity 1. The civil search and rescue organisation thus demonstrates legal breaches and human rights violations by EU member states and shows the inhumane consequences for people seeking protection.

The analysis of the exclusive survey and the testimonies from refugees provide insights into the reasons for and experiences of people fleeing across the Mediterranean. A total of 190 people, a quarter of them minors, took part in the anonymous survey, which was conducted on board the Humanity 1 between September 2022 and June 2023. The survey results clearly refute the general perception that there is only one reason for people to flee. “A lot of things have to come together before a person decides to leave their home for an uncertain future in a foreign country without the support of their family and personal network – not to mention the dangerous journey itself,” says Wasil Schauseil, spokesperson for SOS Humanity. “The reasons why people flee their country of origin are diverse and interrelated, with war and violence being the main factors.” Most of the people rescued by the crew of Humanity 1 came from war-torn Syria.

People seeking protection are exposed to serious human rights violations in countries such as Libya and Tunisia, with which the EU and its member states explicitly cooperate to prevent migration movements. Over half of those surveyed who fled Libya stated that they had been arbitrarily detained there for periods of up to several years in inhumane conditions. According to the independent UN fact-finding mission on Libya, they are therefore victims of a crime against humanity.  A quarter of those interviewed had already attempted to cross the central Mediterranean from Libya three or four times before being rescued by the crew of Humanity 1.  One survivor from Sudan on board Humanity 1 reported: “I tried to cross the Mediterranean. The first time I was unsuccessful. Not the second time either. I was a prisoner in Libya. You have to pay a lot to get out of prison. […] We were beaten and tortured in many bad ways. […] I heard that there are human rights in Europe and I said to myself: I have to go there!”

Based on concrete operational experiences, the report shows how the failure to provide assistance, the outsourcing of responsibility to third countries and the obstruction of maritime rescue by the EU and its member states, such as Italy and Malta, make the Mediterranean one of the deadliest refugee routes in the world.

“The report shows in black and white how distress calls from people fleeing across the central Mediterranean are deliberately not passed on to civil rescue ships. Rescues are obstructed by European authorities or interrupted by the so-called Libyan Coast Guard, in some cases by force of arms,” explains Mirka Schäfer, policy expert at SOS Humanity. “Either people in distress are knowingly left to drown – their silent disappearance in the vast sea is inhumanely taken for granted – or they are towed back to Libya by criminals who are paid dearly and falsely labelled as coastguards. This is a breach of international law. SOS Humanity is calling on the EU and its member states to restore Europe as an ‘area of freedom, security and justice’ instead of further depriving refugees of their rights and letting them die en masse in the Mediterranean.”

The search and rescue organisation SOS Humanity is also calling for a European, state-coordinated maritime rescue programme. Since 2014, more than 23,500 people who have fled across the central Mediterranean have been presumed dead or have disappeared.

If you have any questions, please contact Wasil Schauseil, Communications Coordinator, at:, +49 (0) 157 850 608 14

Current photo and video material – for editorial purposes only – can be found here.

[1]  Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights [OHCHR] (2022). Report of the Independent Fact-Finding Mission on Libya, p. 13. Retrieved 3 May 2024, from

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SOS Humanity e.V.

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