Rebecca Rütten

Creative The Activists of Sea Watch



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At the end of 2014, Sea-Watch grew out of an initiative of volunteers who could not stand on the sidelines witnessing people dying in the Mediterranean Sea any longer.

The European Union is committed to democracy and human rights, but at the same time it is continuing to isolate itself from people fleeing, whether by means of border security installations worth billions or agreements on readmission agreements with third countries such as Turkey, which are questionable and controversial under international law. As a result of this isolation, thousands of people drown every year trying to reach a safe harbour in the EU, many of them within sight of our shores and beaches. That is why Sea Watch has dedicated itself to sea rescue.

Since the beginning of 2015, the constantly growing organisation, which consists mainly of dedicated volunteers from all over Europe, has been working on the project organisation and realisation of Sea-Watch. 

In April of 2019, the crew 21 of Sea Watch 3 was stuck in the port of Marseille. To make good use of the time, they continued to work daily on the ship's maintenance, impacted by the knowledge that at the same time the number of people drowning was rising. With a portrait project I wanted to give some members of the crew the opportunity to share their views on the current Situation in the Mediterranean Sea. The portraits were taken at the end of the day, when not only the hard work, but also the frustration about the current situation was written in their Faces.

Sea-Watch is nothing without its wonderful activists, who dedicate tremendous amounts of effort, time and skill to make the reconnaissance flights, ship maintenance, and rescue missions of Sea-Watch happen.


Moje, 32, Deutschland

Es bestürzt mich, dass sich die Leute im Wohlstand ausruhen während Andere wissentlich auf hoher See im Stich gelassen werden. Ich würde mir wünschen das sich viel mehr empört wird über die tragischen Zustände im Mittelmeer.

I am shocked that people relax in their prosperity while others are knowingly abandoned on the high seas. I wish that there was much more public outrage about the tragic conditions on the Mediterranean.


Sonja, 27, Germany

In solchen Zeiten, die an die Schrecken von damals erinnern, ist es wichtiger denn je, dass wir alle eine klare Haltung zeigen! Wir werden nicht aufhören uns mit allen Mitteln dagegen einzusetzen, dass Menschen in Not, durch verschlossene Grenzen und kaltherzige Ignoranz, von Europa zum Tod durch Ertrinken gezwungen werden. Diejenigen, die mit oder ohne Absicht vergessen, dass wir hier über Menschen - wie Du und ich - reden und absolut ok mit sich selbst sind, sie wissentlich sterben zun lassen, obwohl Hilfe zu leisten so leicht sein könnte.. Diejenigen machen mir Angst und sind mir fremd! Nicht aber die, die durch für uns unvorstellbare Gewalt gezwungen werden, das eigene Leben auf ihrer Schutzsuche zu riskieren.

In such times, that reminding of horrors of the old days, it is more important than ever, that we all show a clear stance. Europe drowns people with it’s closed borders and cold-hearted ignorance. We will not stop saving those people. Those who forget the past and the fact that we are talking about people - like you and me - and are at the same time totally alright with themselves, knowingly let them die, even though helping out could be so easy. Those people scare me, and not those who will put their life at risk to find safety and protection.


Martin, 31, Belgium

De meeste mensen die Libië verlaten op die boten weten dat de kans groot is dat ze zullen sterven op zee, maar nemen toch liever dat risico om te overleven. De Europese overheden willen gewoon dat iemand anders het migratieprobleem voor hen aanpakt en is bereid er miljoenen euro ́s ontwikkelingsgeld voor vrij te maken. Is het niet ironisch dat we door wetgevers worden gesaboteerd terwijl al onze missies strikt gebaseerd zijn op het bestaand wettelijk kader? Deze regeringen zijn rechtstreeks verantwoordelijk voor de duizenden doden op zee.

Most people leaving Libya know that they might die on these boats, but they still prefer to take that risk to get the hell out of there. Over the last years the EU has pumped millions of euros into the country, and we clearly see now that their approach has not worked. It’s so ironical to see that you get sabotaged by them even if you base everything you do on the existing legal framework. These governments are directly responsible for the deaths at sea.


Francesco, 38, USA/Italy

A seventeen year old girl from Nigeria taught me more about human strength and resilience than perhaps anyone I have ever met. She spoke with me for hours about what it meant to leave her family. She spoke of all the difficulties and the violence that she endured during the many many months of her journey alone. Then, in the middle of her story full of tragedy - she stopped to comment on the beauty of the deep blue sea, that very place where she could have lost her life, and where many people do.


Alex, 31, Germany

Viele Menschen sind schon seit über einem Jahr unterwegs und haben bereits die Sahara durchquert. Sie hoffen, dass sie schnell ein Zuhause und Arbeit finden. Das versprechen sie sich von Europa und riskieren dafür ihr Leben. Die Gesellschaft in der ich leben möchte schaut Menschen nicht beim Sterben auf hoher See zu, sondern ermöglicht allen das gleiche Recht auf ein unversehrtes und glückliches Leben. 

Many people have been travelling for over a year and have already crossed the Sahara. They hope that they will quickly find a home and work. That's what they hope for from Europe and risk their lives for.
The society in which I want to live does not watch people die on the high seas, but gives everyone the same right to an intact and happy life. 


Stefan, 28, Germany

Wovor haben die Menschen der EU Angst? Für mich gibt es keine Antwort, die das Ertrinken im Mittelmeer entschuldigt. Unsere Solidarität sollte an keiner EU Grenze aufhören.

What are the people of the EU afraid of? For me, there is no answer that justifies drowning in the Mediterranean. Our solidarity should not stop at any EU border.


Jon, 32, England

We used to operate alongside warships and Italian coast guard ships in the search and rescue zone. We should have been working together to try and open up the borders of other European countries instead of the Italian government fighting to shut down the NGOs, and leaving all the rescues to the European funded Libyan coastguard who are reckless and cause deaths by trying to push back boats at any cost.


Isis, 27, France

Dans les écoles maritimes on nous enseigne les techniques de sauvetage en mer, on nous rabâche le contenu du droit maritime, notamment l’obligation de porter secours à toute personne en détresse quelque soit sa nationalité. Aujourd’hui en Méditerranée les cargos ne dévient plus leur route pour des raisons économiques, les gardes cotes renvoient des personnes en détresse en zone de guerre et les bateaux ONG sont bloqués dans les ports européens. 

In maritime schools, we are taught rescue techniques at sea, we are reminded of the content of maritime law, in particular the obligation to provide assistance to any person in distress, whatever their nationality. Today in the Mediterranean, cargo ships no longer divert their route for economic reasons, coastguards send people in distress back to war zones and NGO boats are blocked in European ports.


Johannes, 34, Germany

Ohne einen einzigen Unfall hat dieses Schiff viele tausend Menschen gerettet, wir sind bereit zum Auslaufen in die Sar Zone. Seit 2015 macht Sea-Watch den Job den die EU machen müsste.

Without a single accident, this ship has saved many thousands of people, that means we are ready to sail into the Sar-Zone. Since 2015, Sea-Watch is doing the job the EU needs to do.


Rebecca, 27, Germany

Es ist Zeit Verantwortung zu übernehmen. Verantwortlich für unsere koloniale Geschichte, für die Importe von Gütern, die lokale Arbeitsmärkte ruinieren und die von uns produzierten Waffen, die in Krisengebieten schicken. An unseren Grenzen sterben Menschen mit Namen, Familien und Geschichten. Was sollen wir später unseren Kindern erzählen, wenn sie uns fragen warum wir nicht handelten obwohl wirbescheid wussten? 

It’s time to take responsibility. Responsibility for our colonial history, for the importing of goods that ruin local labor markets and the weapons we produce that send to crisis areas. People with names, families and stories are dying at our borders. What should we tell our children later when they ask us why we did not act when we knew?


Kim, 37, England

The Problem is not the fact that there are people floating in the sea. We can Fix that. The problem is very clear, it’s that there is this idea of segregation, this idea that we are protecting ourselves in some way, when we enforce our borders. The E.U. was founded on the Idea of stopping war, of stopping suffering, but as a Continent we are waging war, and creating suffering. We are waging war against people who, right now, are held in detention centers in Libya, being tortured, being raped, forced to watch murders and other unspeakable things. We are creating suffering though our inaction, We are killing them by letting them drown, and that goes against everything that Europe is.


Joe, 64, England

As a ship captain, it’s my duty under law to rescue anyone in distress at sea and to take them to a place of safety. The EU nations, by stopping us, are choosing to ignore the law and to ignore their responsibilities.


Leah, 33, Germany

Wie perspektivlos und unsicher muss die eigene Lebenssituation sein, dass ein Mensch seine Familie, Freunde und alles zurück lässt, um sich auf einen Weg in die Ungewissheit zu machen. Es ist mir ein Rätsel, dass die Bürger der EU sich selbst und ihre Familien beschützen wollen, es ihnen aber gleichzeitig schwer fällt, Empathie für Menschen aus anderen Ländern aufzubringen, die das Gleiche wollen.

How insecure, and without prospects one's own life situation must be, that a person leaves his family, friends and everything behind, in order to make his way into danger and uncertainty. It is a mystery to me that the citizens of the EU want to protect themselves and their families, but at the same time they find it difficult to feel any empathy for people from other countries who want the same.