The German Protestant church will send a ship to the central Mediterranean to rescue migrants attempting to reach Europe from north Africa.
The boat, named Sea-Watch 4, will depart in a few days from the seaport of Burriana, near Valencia, in Spain, where volunteers are finalising preparations, the crew has said.
The mission, managed by United4Rescue – an initiative led by the Protestant church in Germany (EKD) and backed by more than 500 other organisations – is the result of a crowdfunding campaign launched a few months ago and named #WirschickeneinSchiff (“We send a ship”).
‘‘We connect all social organisations and groups that do not want to stand by and watch thousands of people die in the Mediterranean,” United4Rescue says on its website. “With the collection of donations, we support rescue organisations that act humanitarianly [sic], where politics fail. We are non-profit and finance ourselves, exclusively through donations. We expect clear responses from the European governments to our demands.’’
The church’s mission had already been announced in February, after a ceremony in the port city of Kiel, in northern Germany, which was attended by politicians, volunteers and church leaders.
“One does not let any single human drown, end of discussion,” the head of EKD, Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, said during the ceremony. “This ship has to be out there, because European states do not intend, nor do they manage to rescue people in the Mediterranean.’’
The ship was due to sail from Spain as early as April, but the pandemic slowed down works, forcing the crew to postpone their mission.
“The Sea-Watch 4 is desperately needed – with several shipwrecks in the last weeks and no rescue vessels left – in the central Mediterranean,” Mattea Weihe, a Sea-Watch spokesperson, said. “However, the ship is not only a rescue asset, but also a strong political statement against Europe’s deadly politics. It is a huge 60.8-metre sign of solidarity, sent by over 500 organisations, of civil society, with the church in the front row. It demonstrates that civil society, in Europe, disagrees with the fact that governments choose to let people drown, instead of allowing them to arrive at Europe’s shores.
“The Mediterranean sea must not become a deadly black-box’’, Weihe added. “We need civil sea rescue vessels, as well as civil society, to continue keeping a civil eye on the deadly EU politics, in the Mediterranean sea.”
The Sea-Watch 4 was built in 1976 and until the end of 2019, the ship, called FS Poseidon and owned by the state of Schleswig-Holstein was used as a scientific research ship.
“Now it has a new purpose: to save people from distress,” said United4Rescue.