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Seafarer Won't Stand By and Watch People Drown

Published Sep 16, 2015 4:11 PM by Wendy Laursen

A German merchant navy captain has joined the ranks of maritime industry professionals helping to save the lives of migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean.

Klaus Vogel has established the humanitarian group SOS Mediterranee and is raising money to charter a rescue ship.

The group says: “Since January 2015, over 100,000 people have risked their lives, leaving off the coast of Libya and crossing the Mediterranean Sea, hoping to find refuge in Europe. According to the OIM (the International Migrations Observatory), more than 2,500 refugees lost their lives in an attempt to reach European shores.

“Given the current situation, the numerous shipwrecks and the lack of available resources, SOS Mediterranee is launching a first European initiative for the rescue of refugees at sea, using a crowdfunding campaign.”

Vogel formerly sailed container ships around the world for Hapag-Lloyd, where he once encountered a stowaway. This gave him an understanding of the desperation of people in danger who are forced to make such journeys. 

The new organization is aiming to staff a ship with experienced crew and medics from Médecins du Monde (Doctors of the World). 

So far, a fundraising page has raised more than £52,000 ($80,000) for the project, which aims to charter a 60m vessel that can carry 400 people for up to two days.

SOS Mediterranee is a humanitarian association, politically and religiously independent, based on the principles of respect for human beings and their dignity, without partiality as concerns their nationality or origin, their social belonging, religious belief, political position or ethnic identity.  

The initiative is led by a group of European citizens with various professional backgrounds (naval, humanitarian, medical, legal etc…) in order to organize the rescue operations of refugees in distress on the Mediterranean Sea. Their goal is to also help those individuals benefit from a better protection once on land while also reporting their situation to the public.

The association is also hoping to open conversations between protagonists of the European, Mediterranean and African civil societies, all directly involved with the migratory issues currently affecting the Mediterranean Sea.

Vogel founded the organization in May this year after 1,300 people died in April.