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Sea rescue is not a crime – it is a duty

Due to the increasing number of refugees worldwide and the simultaneous isolation by the European Union, the Mediterranean is now the deadliest escape route in the world. Every year, thousands of people drown in an attempt to live in freedom, peace and security.

At the end of 2014, the civil sea rescue organisation Sea-Watch e.V. was created by an initiative of volunteers. Sea-Watch and its activists would no longer stand idly by and watch the dying in the Mediterranean. Such private ad hoc missions have become a permanent reality, seeing as no public sea rescue programme was set up despite the severe humanitarian emergency situation.

The ship Sea-Watch 3 in port.
Tim Wagner / Sea-Watch

But the civil activists engaged in sea rescue, whose operations are guided by legality and humanity, are facing increasing criminalisation by the Member States of the European Union. In this context, the captain of the Sea-Watch 3, Carola Rackete, has gained tragic publicity by getting arrested by the Italian judiciary after the end of a rescue mission in June 2019 on charges of aiding and abetting illegal migration.

The criminalisation of sea rescuers started earlier: in 2018 it became public that the crew of the IUVENTA (known as the IUVENTA 10) was being investigated. It was in this context that the Sea-Watch Legal Aid Fund was founded on June 22nd, 2018. Its aim is to ensure the protection and enforcement of the rights of individuals and groups in connection with sea rescue. In order for them to be able to comprehensively exercise their rights, the fund supports activists of Sea-Watch and other sea rescue organisations, but also captains and crews of commercial and private ships. For this purpose, the fund primarily provides financial means, but also legal assistance. The distribution of the funds and other possible support is decided by specialists whose motivation and highest priority is the protection and defence of the rights of the affected people engaged in sea rescue.

Sea-Watch Rechtshilfefonds e.V.

Sea-Watch Rechtshilfefonds e.V. was founded on 22.06.2018 in Berlin. The entry into the register of associations at the district court Berlin Charlottenburg was completed on 29.05.2019 under the registration number VR 37445 B.

Chairman of the association and executive board: Jesse Huppenbauer
The complete statutes of the association can be found here.