The civil search and rescue organisation SOS MEDITERRANEE Germany will be working under a new name as of January 1st, 2022. As SOS Humanity, the organisation – founded in Berlin in 2015 – wants to advocate for more humanity on the Mediterranean Sea. By summer 2022, it will operate a new, fast rescue ship, the Humanity, to save more people from drowning.
“The name SOS Humanity signalizes that humanity is at risk of drowning in the Mediterranean Sea,” explains Managing Director Maike Röttger. “As SOS Humanity, we respond to distress calls, rescue people from distress at sea and provide humanitarian aid. The more than 1,500 children, women and men who drowned in the central Mediterranean this year are a humanitarian disaster and a political scandal. That is why our new name is also a statement and an appeal to politicians and the citizens of Europe not to accept the dying.”
Based on six years of experience in civilian sea rescue in the central Mediterranean, SOS Humanity wants to specifically supplement the civilian rescue fleet with a new, particularly fast ship and save more people from drowning. “The start-up financing for the new ship, the Humanity, has been secured thanks to numerous donations from civil society,” says project director Till Rummenhohl. “As soon as we have bought the ship, the process of modification into a rescue ship will begin, because we want to be in operation with it by mid-2022.”
While the nature of the future rescue missions with the Humanity and the values and goals of the organisation are not expected to change, the organisation wants to significantly strengthen its political work on land in the future: “For years, civilian search and rescue organisations have been witnessing how international law is being violated through the EU’s funding of the Libyan coast guard in the central Mediterranean,” says Managing Director Maike Röttger. “As SOS Humanity, we will denounce these abuses clearly and unequivocally. Because we need to save lives not only at sea but also on land, we will hold political decision-makers accountable for respecting the law of the sea and human rights.”
SOS Humanity calls for change of political course
The organisation founded by captain and historian Klaus Vogel as SOS MEDITERRANEE Germany is now able to evaluate the situation at sea as SOS Humanity after six years of civilian search and rescue operations.
“It is not enough to provide purely humanitarian rescue and thus mitigate the deadly consequences of a failed migration policy,” says Maike Röttger. “That is why we are calling on the new German government to strongly advocate for a change of policy. The EU’s inhumane policy of sealing off the borders must be ended. The funding of the Libyan coast guard, which intercepts refugees on the high seas and illegally returns them to Libya, must be stopped. Because in doing so, the EU states are circumventing their legal obligations and aiding and abetting breaches of international law.” This year, more than 32,000 refugees were towed back to Libya, where most of them are subjected to torture and other human rights violations in inhumane detention camps. While there is still no European search and rescue programme, over 18,700 people seeking protection have died at Europe’s external border in the central Mediterranean since 2014. “The EU can and must prevent this,” emphasises Maike Röttger.
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