The private rescue organization Sea-Eye transferred 32 migrants to its ship Sea-Eye 4 on Tuesday after a container ship with a Ukrainian captain rescued the group in the Mediterranean on Monday. They are now headed for Malta in the hope of finding a port for disembarkation, said the organization.
The Sea-Eye 4 is on its way towards Malta, the private German rescue organization Sea-Eye communicated in a press statement on Wednesday, March 30. It is carrying 32 people rescued from the Mediterranean Sea by the crew of a container ship, the Karina.
The Karina had been on the way from Malta to Benghazi in Libya when the rescue organization Alarm Phone notified them to the presence of a ship in distress on Monday, Sea-Eye said.
The Sea-Eye itself was about 50 hours travel from the site of the incident, and said it couldn't have offered any direct emergency assistance.
'About to capsize'
State authorities and private rescue organizations kept in contact about how to help the migrants on board the boat, and as the situation became more "dramatic," writes Sea-Eye, they contacted the captain of the Karina and its shipping company owners to see if they would be ready to help.
The Karina arrived at the site on Monday afternoon, bringing the 32 people to safety. "The [wooden migrant] boat was about to capsize," said Karina's captain Maksymenko in a statement released by Sea-Eye. "The people would never have survived. The waves were about four meters high at that point. They were not going anywhere under their own steam."
While this was not the first time that a ship from the cargo ship company has rescued people from the Mediterranean, the shipping company told Sea-Eye they are not equipped "to care for rescued migrants on board or offer them medical help."
The ship is run by the north German shipping firm Klingenberg and sails under a flag from Antigua and Barbuda, which is common in the shipping industry. Karina’s captain is Ukrainian national Vasyl Maksymenko.
Transferred to the Sea-Eye 4
After the rescue, the shipping company and the captain asked Sea-Eye 4 for help. Captain Maksymenko said that the flag under which the ship was registered, Antigua and Barbuda, had signed up to the Geneva Convention on refugees and therefore it was their duty to bring the rescued migrants to a safe place, where "their life is not threatened and where their human needs are met." Captain Maksymenko said this meant it would be impossible for him to take these people back to a war zone like Libya.
Sea-Eye 4 and Karina agreed on a meeting place and on Tuesday at midday, around 55 nautical miles from the Libyan coast, according to the press release from Sea-Eye, the two ships met. A medical team and rescue coordinator boarded the Karina to assess the situation.
They found that the migrants had probably been at sea for at least three days on their wooden boat. Some of them needed medical help for hypothermia and dehydration. It was decided that the Sea-Eye 4 could offer better medical care for the migrants on board, and so they were duly transferred across.
Headed towards Malta
Sea-Eye said it would head towards Malta. "Malta is the nearest EU Member State. We will ask them to provide us a safe harbor where we can disembark those on board," said Isler. The last time Sea-Eye disembarked rescued migrants in Malta, however, was summer 2019. Since then, the island nation has kept its ports largely shut to those seeking a safe harbor and most private rescue ships have subsequently disembarked in Italy.
"We will now see if Malta upholds the Geneva Convention in the same way as the Ukrainian captain Maksymenko did," commented Isler, "and prevents a human rights abuse taking place by not sending people back into a war zone."
The Sea-Eye 4 has places for up to 200 people on board for a short time until disembarkation can be achieved in a safe harbor. "We have enough provisions, places to sleep and an on-board hospital," said Gorden Isler, the chairman of Sea-Eye. "For a short time, we can safely take these people on board."