Friday

18th Jan 2019

Interview

Ship captain to launch migrant sea rescue mission

  • The 60-metre MARKAB is a Dutch pilot vessel (Photo: SOS Mediterranee)

Klaus Vogel spent most of his life at sea, steering large ships through waters in far-off places and in the Mediterranean.

Last November, he quit his ten-year job as captain of a big container ship. The 59-year-old from Hamburg, who holds a PhD in history, has a new vision.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Klaus Vogel is a former container ship captain (Photo: SOS Mediterranee)

"If somebody is in distress at sea we have an obligation to help and I personally feel obliged to do that", he told this website on Tuesday (20 October).

Vogel came to Brussels to announce the European launch of SOS Mediterranee, a civil society-based initiative to get a 60-metre rescue boat out at sea on a permanent basis.

Sitting in the 12th floor office of Arne Lietz, a German socialist MEP, at the European parliament, Vogel says the plan is to rescue people in distress and then disembark them in Italy.

Vogel, who wears a 'je suis migrant' pin on his jacket, says he left his job because the response from civil society and the maritime community to support rescue efforts was "insufficient".

The UN's High Commissioner for Refugees says five times more people have already arrived this month by sea compared to the total for October last year. Around 3,100 have died in the attempt.

Vogel's plan is to get the Markab, a Dutch pilot vessel, in the water either in late December or January next year.

The all-weather boat will operate three to four-week missions before returning to refuel and change crew. It has two small speedboats and can carry up to 400 people and a crew of around a dozen, including a medical team of volunteers.

A rescue can take up to 12 hours and disembarkation in Italy up to 36 hours. The boat will operate in international waters near Libya.

Moored at the Pula shipyard in Croatia, the Markab costs €1.2 million. Money to purchase it, along with operational costs, is being sourced by crowdfunding and donations from partners like Medecins du Monde.

"All together we are [at] around €520,000 now. Once we have the operation costs for three months, we will start. We still need €100,000 to €120,000 to start", he said.

With enough financial backing, Vogel hopes to fill in a rescue gap over the coming winter months.

Private initiatives like Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS), he says, won't be patrolling the Mediterranean after October. And Medecins Sans Frontieres plans to keep its Dignity and Bourbon Argos rescue boats operational until the end of December.

The EU's sea rescue operation Triton, commanded by Rome, has rescued thousands of people over the past year. But warships don't give their position.

Fewer people attempt to cross from Libya to Italy during the winter, but Vogel says those who do are at a much higher risk given the low water temperatures.

"We cannot just do nothing", he said.

SOS Mediterranee was founded in Berlin in May. The mission differs from MOAS, launched last year by a millionaire philanthropist couple, because it is civil-society based.

"We want to build up civil society support and connection and action and response on the basis of [the] European civil society movement. That is the difference", he says.

An SOS Mediterranee German chapter was also founded over the summer. In September, they launched an SOS Mediterranee French chapter in Marseille. Another one is in the works for Denmark.

Leitz and Vogel met through a mutual friend in May. The German MEP grew up in East Berlin and both share the same cause.

"I grew up behind the [iron] curtain so I know what it means when people flee. My father was a leader in the opposition against the government", said Leitz.

EU mini-summit to 'slow flows' of refugees

Commission blueprint, seen by EUobserver, says frontline states in Western Balkans to receive hundreds of extra border guards to “slow down flows” of refugees.

Eight EU states take migrants stranded on NGO boats

France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal and Romania have agreed to relocate the 49 migrants stuck on two NGO boats moored, for almost three weeks, off Malta's coast.

NGO Mediterranean rescue standoff exposes EU rift

Conditions on the Dutch flagged Sea-Watch 3, an NGO boat with 32 rescued migrants onboard, continue to deteriorate - as EU states refuse to take them in. The youngest on board is a one-year old infant.

Analysis

Goodnight, Vienna! Mixed bag from Austrian presidency

When Austria took over the EU presidency, chancellor Sebastian Kurz declared that his government - in a coalition with the far-right FPO - would use its six-months tenure to promote what he called "a Europe that protects".

News in Brief

  1. EU trade commissioner asks for green light for US talks
  2. Slovakia's commissioner takes unpaid leave to run for presidency
  3. Minority elects Lofven as prime minister of Sweden
  4. Putin opposes EU prospects of Serbia and Kosovo
  5. Tsipras launches campaign to ratify Macedonia deal
  6. US-EU meeting in doubt after Trump cancels plane
  7. Germany and China to sign pact on finance cooperation
  8. Labour divided on second Brexit vote plan

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General

Latest News

  1. Germany led way on EU human rights protection
  2. How to troll the European Parliament elections
  3. MEPs in Strasbourg: everywhere but the plenary
  4. Brexit delay 'reasonable', as May tries cross-party talks
  5. MEPs allow Draghi's membership of secretive bank group
  6. EU parliament backs Morocco deal despite row
  7. Barnier open to 'future relations' talks if UK red lines shift
  8. German spies to monitor far-right AfD party

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs
  2. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  3. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  5. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  6. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  8. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  10. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us