Unfair detention: What really happened

Zwei Crewmitglieder auf einem RHIB von hinten bei der Rettung einer Person, die sich im Wasser befindet.
Jana Stallein

The Humanity has been detained in Crotone, southern Italy, since 3 December 2023. The detention for 20 days and the fine of several thousand euros is based solely on lies about a rescue on 30 November in which our crew saved 46 people from the water. If the Humanity 1 had not been there, they would have drowned. What really happened:

Last Thursday, 30 November, shortly after 6 a.m. our crew receives a distress call: a rubber boat in distress in international waters in the Libyan search and rescue zone. For around two hours, the relevant rescue coordination centres refuse to coordinate. In the end, our crew is able to rescue 90 people, including a baby, with our rescue ship, the Humanity 1.

At the same time, we receive new information of another distress call from the NGO aircraft Seabird. We make several requests for coordination. At the Libyan rescue coordination centre, we can only reach one Arabic-speaking person. This is despite the fact that rescue coordination centres are obliged to have English-speaking staff on duty 24 hours a day.

Seabird tells us that the boat in distress is not alone. The so-called Libyan Coast Guard is there, carrying out a pull-back: they force people from the rubber boat on board their vessel to bring them back to Libya illegally. Many fall into the water. We are about five kilometres away and we know: if someone can’t swim, they only have one to two minutes. If they can swim, they have a few minutes and, only if they’re lucky, more. We try to reach the patrol vessel – without success.

Weißes Flugzeug Seabird auf blauem Himmel
Channel 16
Humanity 1 calls patrol vessel wihtout receiving an answer. Seabird 1 gives new information.
  • Captain Humanity 1
    Libyan Coast Guard Vessel 656, this is Motor Vessel Humanity 1 Calling on 16
  • Captain Humanity 1
    Joachim: Libyan Coast Guard Vessel 656 this Motor Vessel Humanity 1 approximately 3 miles south of your position. Please answer my call.
  • Seabird
    Humanity 1 to Seabird on 1 6
  • Captain Humanity 1
    Seabird, Humanity
  • Seabird
    Humanity 1 status update. The Rubber boat alsongside the patrol boat the tube, the left tube is very much deflated. There are a lot of people in the water currently trying to swim away from the coast guard vessel. I would assume about 30 to 40 people in the water. Maybe you can launch your... Over.
  • Captain Humanity 1
    Approximately three zero to four zero people in the water and I guess the Coast guards are not launching a revive?
  • Seabird
    Not at the moment. They are taking the people from the boat onbord.
  • Captain Humanity 1
    Yes, that has been understood. I am proceeding.

The so-called Libyan Coast Guard can see the people floundering in the cold water and the waves. They don’t throw lifejackets or other rescue equipment into the water or launch their speedboat. Again, we ask the relevant authorities for coordination. We get an answer from the Italian rescue coordination centre: our captain should do everything to protect people’s lives.

Our crew throws rescue equipment into the water and tries to rescue the people scattered in the sea one by one using poles and bare hands. Rocco, who is coordinating the operation on scene, later reports that two persons were already 20 centimetres beneath the surface of the water. The crew are just able to pull them out. Our crew is able to bring 46 people on board the Humanity 1. Some of them have been separated from relatives who were forced back by the so-called Libyan Coast Guard. One boy has been separated from his sister, both of them minors. And a man from his pregnant wife. He is desperate. Everyone is soaked, frozen, shocked.

Zwei Crewmitglieder auf einem RHIB von hinten bei der Rettung einer Person, die sich im Wasser befindet.
Jana Stallein
Links ein weißes Schlauchboot mit vielen Geflüchteten und rechts das RHIB von SOS Humanity mit der Crew an Bord.
Jana Stallein
Zwei Crewmitglieder von der Humanity 1 von hinten auf dem RHIB
Jana Stallein
Schiff der libyschen Küstenwache, als die Crew der Humanity 1 einen Pull-Back bezeugt.
Camilla Kranzusch / SOS Humanity

We are assigned a port of safety, Livorno, far in the north of Italy. We head there at full speed, but in the afternoon a crew member spots with binoculars an overcrowded wooden boat. Our crew – this time coordinated by the Italian rescue coordination centre – carries out a third rescue and brings 40 people on board, including a two-week-old baby and a pregnant woman. In the meantime, we are assigned a closer port: Crotone, in southern Italy. But as soon as the crew is back on board, yet another distress case is reported. Humanity 1 arrives there in the late evening and is able to rescue another 24 people in distress at sea.

Gerettete von oben fotografiert als sie von Bord der Humanity 1 gehen und von Personal des Roten Kreuzes empfangen werden.
Camilla Kranzusch / SOS Humanity

In just 18 hours, our crew rescued 200 people from distress at sea. They were able to go ashore in Crotone on Saturday, 2 December. Six of the survivors – including the mother and her newborn baby – were taken to hospital. Then, the Italian authorities make an incomprehensible decision.

The Humanity 1 is detained due to lies.

The detention of 20 days and a fine of several thousand euros is based solely on false claims about the second rescue. We are blamed for the fact that the people were in the water, yet we have evidence that they were already in the water before we even arrived. Without us taking action, however, they would have drowned. In addition, the crew is accused of not following instructions from the Libyan authorities. A lie – there simply were no instructions. The fully documented radio communication as well as videos and photos of the rescue prove the inaction of the authorities and expose their false claims.

"I am shocked by the lies contained in the detention report!"

We are taking legal action!

Our crew co-operated with the relevant authorities, complied with the law and did everything possible to rescue and protect people.

We are taking legal action against this detention of our ship and the authorities’ behaviour. Help us to do this. We need you!

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SOS Humanity e.V.
Postbox 440352
D-12003 Berlin

Phone +49 (0) 30 2352 5682


SOS Humanity e.V.

IBAN: DE 0410 0500 0001 9041 8451