Hope in Despair

Seenotrettungsaktion auf dem Mittelmeer.
Screenshot aus Video von Max Brugger / Sea-Watch

This article was written by Patrick, who was on board as an engineer in the fourth rotation, in protest against the events that took place on and after November 30, 2023. On that day, our crew rescued 136 people and witnessed an illegal pull-back. As a result, the rescue ship Humanity 1 was detained based on false claims by the Italian authorities.

The human race has over the past decades proven to be resilient when it comes to our survival and existence. Top of the food chain, we are born and arrived here on earth equipped with the basics yet essentials of life for our sustenance. One of such basic survival instincts hardwired into the very machinery of our minds is a simple, yet sophisticated thing, we call hope, from which the desire to survive, flourish, make and accept changes thrives in the intricate design of the conscience.

It will be unconscionable to think to make meaning of our existence here on this planet if hope were to be sidelined or robbed from a person.

"Hope is like that flickering delicate flame, lit on the candle, whose light, although small, dances in the darkness that threatens our very survival."

Hope did burn in the hearts of men and women alike, who took bold decisions, some of which were so perilous they had to pay the monstrous price with their lives; and for hope to ever have meaning, it surely does need “feet” to move.

Life changing decisions therefore need to be made, while the understanding of risk is usually based on how a person feels, on what people see around them, be it persecution, hunger, depravation, torture. They build from within themselves a feeling that “hope” brings; that things can get better.

Eine Zeichnung als Danksagung der Geflüchteten an SOS Humanity.
Maria Giulia Trombini / SOS Humanity

Many from Ghana I met on my search and rescue rotation onboard the Humanity 1, where I worked as third engineer were amongst the many other people we rescued, fleeing either, persecution, poverty or conflict. Listening to their stories, it is quite easy to think of why they make such foolhardy decisions, and risk it all to cross the Sahara through some of the most dangerous channels in the Mediterranean ever devised by man.

Therefore, armed with nothing but hope, some did take their fate into their hands to brave the storm, and the risk awaiting them on these perilous trips through Western, and Central Africa, through the deserts, and up North, on a journey of no return. Their stories are chilling, and harrowing, deep in their minds. They indeed did come at a point for them to give up, especially when the smugglers who posed as handlers to help them, connived with bandits and uniformed officers, to extort, brutalise and sometimes even kill them. What could have indeed buoyed their broken spirits up than a hope they had cultivated from a home and country left far behind.

Die Humanity 1 in der Dämmerung.
Laurin Schmid / SOS Humanity

As SOS Humanity, we represent hope in all of this, Humanity 1 is the epitome of hope as it symbolises for these survivors a restoration of hope they once had, which often is the case, taken from them in these detention camps, and prisons of torture in Libya. Whilst the rest of Europe oversees these human atrocities and superintend over decisions aimed at crippling fundamental human rights, we raise the flag of hope high to these survivors who have known pain, rejection, and despair.

We are not smugglers or human traffickers. I am an engineer working just like any mariner is trained to do and my core duties require that I put in all effort to enable my ship, the Humanity 1, to accompany survivors to places of safety. We are crew members onboard a ship that does not transport human cargo, we are not a party boat cruising with the rich and affluent, we are not carrying harmful chemicals into Europe.

"We are only a beacon of hope to the hopeless, a light tower for the men, women and children, who could be in the danger of drowning in this watery grave the Mediterranean sea has unfortunately become."

Therefore, to criminalize our activities and impose unwarranted sanctions on us, together with fines, is simply preposterous, vexatious, and inhuman. We, together with other organisations sharing in this humanitarian duty to save lives at sea, only can do so from the end of this vicious cycle. This cycle, backed-up financially and politically, will not stop spinning as long as the corruption, lies and disregard for people’s dignity continue.

Leeres weißes Boot auf dem blauen Meer.
Danilo Campailla / SOS Humanity
A poem for survivors 

Hope at the end of the line

When my eyes cannot see;

And my breathe does flee;

Right in the middle of the sea;

Oh, may I in that moment hope

that I’d see hope at the end of the line. 

When all my strength gives way;

And my life, on death’s scaffold, does sway

May I see hope this way;

Please help me see

Hope at the end of the line. 

Like sailors our work we’d love;

To bring hope to those who need love;

Call them “illegal migrants” all you want;

Wish them ill all you want,

Treat them badly all you want,

But their hope at the end of the line we’d assure

A life line we’d offer to bring them safely ashore.

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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