Sea-Watch Captain Carola Rackete: ‘We Were All in a State of Total Despair’

DER NewsGerman: Ms. Rackete, you have become a heroine to many because of the considerable risks you took to save people through the Mediterranean. Many others, however, are hostile to you. How do you see your role?

Rackete: I’ve been surprised by how personal things have gotten. the idea should be about the issue, about the European Union’s failure to fairly distribute those who have been rescued along with to take shared responsibility. of which’s what the idea should be about, not about individuals like me, who just happen to have become visible. the idea’s not a situation I wished for. I was only filling in for a colleague who had originally been scheduled.

DER NewsGerman: Describe what you have experienced inside past few weeks?

Rackete: the idea was difficult. We were traveling for almost 17 days with the refugees on board. After we arrived in Italian waters off Lampedusa along with knew of which we might not be allowed to go in to port, 10 particularly urgent medical cases were taken through the ship. Shortly afterward, we continued — even though we had medical concerns, because our medical station is usually only equipped for emergencies.

DER NewsGerman: You then spent several days cruising off the coast of Lampedusa.

Rackete: We were trying to figure out what to do. First, we issued an urgent appeal against the Italian entry ban, which was immediately rejected. Then we tried at the European Court of Human Rights. Thirty-four of the rescued people on board along with myself, as captain, filed the complaint, although the idea took a lot of time.

DER NewsGerman: What were conditions like on Sea Watch 3?

Rackete: With each passing day, the medical along with hygienic situation worsened. Then came the negative verdict. Our situation seemed hopeless.

DER NewsGerman: Was there any direct contact with the Italian coast guard?

Rackete: At some point, a medical evacuation became necessary because one of our passengers was ill along with needed to be taken off the ship immediately. We called the sea rescue center along with the Italians arrived within two hours along with helped, even though we were outside Italian territorial waters. the idea went quick, although the idea was an exception.

DER NewsGerman: Why?

Rackete: We sent medical reports to the rescue center in Rome, to the Netherlands flag state along with to the port in Lampedusa every day. although nobody listened along with we didn’t get an answer. All they said in Rome was of which they had forwarded our reports to the Italian Inside Ministry. of which was the idea. Our doctors felt like the earth had been turned upside down. Nothing happened politically either. Sea-Watch made inquiries with Malta, with France, there was a constant series of inquiries sent to the German Foreign Ministry along with the German Inside Ministry.


 Migrants resting on board the Sea Watch 3 off the coast of Italy


Guglielmo Mangiapane / Reuters

Migrants resting on board the
Sea Watch 3
off the coast of Italy

DER NewsGerman: along with there were no responses?

Rackete: They always said: We’ll do something. although there just wasn’t a solution on the horizon, at least nothing concrete.

DER NewsGerman: Did of which surprise you?

Rackete: the idea was clear to me of which the idea was going to be difficult. The problem of distributing (the refugees) has been unresolved for ages. the idea’s been This kind of way for all rescue ships for about a year at This kind of point. Just think of the Lifeline case in Malta or the Aquarius. The question was always: Who’s going to take these people This kind of time? Each ship is usually handled separately.

DER NewsGerman: In some other words, of which was all completely clear to you when you began your mission.

Rackete: We keep going because the idea’s necessary. although, of course, we launched the Sea-Watch knowing full well of which nobody wanted to take inside refugees. Not even Tunisia, which European governments like to view as a safe alternative. While we were out there, the Mare Dive, a cargo ship with 75 rescued people on board spent 15 days waiting off the coast of Tunisia. although the Tunisians also don’t want to become the next port for unloading. Nobody wants these people.

DER NewsGerman: What is usually life like on board your ship?

Rackete: The refugees are essentially confined. There is usually very little space along with no privacy. Most people sleep on the aft deck in a tent on the floor, everyone features a blanket. There are three portable toilets. There isn’t enough water for people to take showers regularly — they can only take one every few days. Doctors without Borders used to operate the ship, although at of which time they had people on board for a maximum of three days. the idea’s not designed for more.

DER NewsGerman: What does of which mean for the mood on board?

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Rackete: We couldn’t promise people anything of which wasn’t there. No one wanted to take them in. This kind of hopelessness often blends with post-traumatic stress disorders. Many have suffered human rights violations, have been tortured, sold, have had to work under slave-like conditions or have experienced sexual violence. We wanted to project confidence, although the longer things took, the more we lost people’s trust.

DER NewsGerman: In explaining why you decided to sail into the port of Lampedusa, you referred to the fact of which you were carrying people at risk of suicide on board.

Rackete: Some had told the medical team about previous suicide attempts along with asked them: Please look after me, I’m not doing well. There were three people in particular.

DER NewsGerman: What did of which mean for you?

Rackete: At the beginning of the mission, we defined red lines inside team along with discussed when we had to go to a safe harbor. When those lines were crossed, we headed into port.


Sea-Watch 3 rescue ship prior to entering port in Lampedusa: The ship is usually currently being held by the Italian authorities.


Guglielmo Mangiapane/REUTERS

Sea-Watch 3 rescue ship prior to entering port in Lampedusa: The ship is usually currently being held by the Italian authorities.

DER NewsGerman: What were those red lines?

Rackete: Many passengers needed treatment through specialists. We suspected there might be a case of tuberculosis. the idea’s not possible on board to test for something like of which or to treat the idea. With others, we could only treat them with painkillers, without a diagnosis. Almost all needed psychological care, although we didn’t have a psychologist with us. When we keep people in these conditions For just two weeks, the idea can get explosive.

DER NewsGerman: What did the Italian authorities say about of which?

Rackete: The Guardia di Finanza had been on board along with had checked our documents. They said: Captain, please don’t get so worked up. There will be a solution — just wait. At of which point, I thought, OK, we’ll wait. The Italian parliamentarians who visited us on board the Sea-Watch also gave us wish, telling us of which there were talks between France, Germany along with Portugal. Salvini said of which if countries were ready to take the refugees in, we could go ashore.

DER NewsGerman: What happened inside final hours before you arrived in Lampedusa?

Rackete: We had a second medical evacuation the night before. A passenger urgently had to go to the hospital — he was in severe pain, apparently he had kidney stones. through of which point on, the situation was no longer tenable. The feeling among the people on board was: Do we all have to get sick first, do we have to throw ourselves overboard for something to happen? There also came a point where the crew couldn’t take the idea anymore. the idea became more exhausting by the day, along with inside end, we were all in a state of total despair.

DER NewsGerman: inside meantime, European governments continued negotiating who might take inside refugees along with when.

Rackete: of which’s also what the parliamentarians were telling us: The solution is usually imminent, the idea will come inside next few hours. I didn’t want to go to port, I didn’t want to break the law. We intensified the watch duties on board creating sure of which no one might try to harm themselves. of which was on Thursday night. On Friday, I woke up at 6 a.m. along with asked the parliamentarians: Where’s the solution? Of course, there wasn’t one. I didn’t know what to do then. although the idea couldn’t go on. I could no longer guarantee safety on board.

DER NewsGerman: What happened then?

Rackete: On Friday afternoon, the Guardia di Finanza boarded again along with handed me some papers informing me of which I was being investigated for illegal entry into territorial waters along with for aiding along with abetting illegal entry. They took the ship’s log with them along with wanted to leave again. I asked them: What about my 40 rescued people — do you want to take them? along with they said: No, we know nothing about of which. A short time later, the word through Berlin was of which Salvini was again blocking a solution. I didn’t want to take responsibility for another night with the refugees, so I decided to take the ship in.


Captain Carola Rackete: "I didn't want to break the law."


TILL M EGEN/ SEA-WATCH HANDOUT/ EPA-EFE/ REX

Captain Carola Rackete: “I didn’t want to break the law.”

DER NewsGerman: When you arrived at the port …

Rackete: … the Guardia di Finanza tried to block our way. We sailed in extremely slowly, stopped the ship along with turned the idea around because you have to dock backwards. Then I saw of which the Guardia di Finanza had docked inside middle of the pier to prevent us through mooring there. The fact of which we collided was not an attack on a warship, as I was accused of. the idea was an accident.

DER NewsGerman: Did you expect of which you might be arrested?

Rackete: I was afraid of something like of which.

DER NewsGerman: How were you treated?

Rackete: The officers were nice. After eight hours at the Guardia di Finanza, I was taken to the refugee camp inside middle of the island. of which’s where the only police station of which can carry out identification measures is usually located. The people we rescued were also sitting on the floor there, along with they began to applaud when they saw me. My fingerprints were taken. through there, I was put under house arrest. On Monday, I was taken by ship to Sicily for a hearing.

DER NewsGerman: What did you tell the judge?

Rackete: I explained my reasoning to her along with described the collision with the boat through my point of view. After of which, I was placed under house arrest at another location.

DER NewsGerman: Were you aware of the attention your case was generating? of which you had become a hero to some along with the devil to others?

Rackete: Not truly. I was under house arrest, after all. although I was glad I didn’t have to burden myself with what others were saying. During the second house arrest, the woman hosting me switched on the television along with the images were being broadcast, although I didn’t want to see them at all.

DER NewsGerman: How are you coping with the role of the hero? Just like the young climate protection activist Greta Thunberg, you have at This kind of point become the champion of migrants.

Rackete: the idea hasn’t truly hit me yet. although I’m a person who prefers taking action to talking. along with I think of which This kind of action speaks sufficiently for itself.

DER NewsGerman: On Tuesday evening, a judge decided to Discharge you.

Rackete: Surprisingly, she accepted our reasoning on almost all points. She also wrote of which we did not enter territorial waters illegally. along with of which we are not migrant smugglers. The entry ban applies only to smugglers.

DER NewsGerman: What is usually the next legal step?

Rackete: A second hearing is usually to be held on Tuesday. the idea concerns aiding along with abetting illegal entry along with entry into territorial waters. As I understand the idea, these allegations have been dropped in some other cases. although the idea can take months.

DER NewsGerman: Do you like the fact of which you are being portrayed as Salvini’s opponent?

Rackete: I don’t take note of what he says. I do know how Italy voted inside European elections along with of which many Italians support his policies. although there are also many solidarity movements in Italy. The country is usually divided.

DER NewsGerman: What might you like to say to him if the two of you ever came face to face?

Rackete: Salvini is usually not a person I want to meet. His policies violate human rights. His way of expressing himself is usually disrespectful along with inappropriate for a top politician.

DER NewsGerman: How do you explain the fact of which Salvini has you in his sights?

Rackete: Anyone who is usually currently a captain on a rescue ship knows of which they are being criminalized. The odd thing is usually of which the idea has become so extreme in This kind of instance. There was a strange chain of circumstances: After we already had the refugees on board, Salvini pushed through This kind of decree prohibiting aid organizations through entering Italian ports. the idea was done in expedited proceedings. We saved the refugees on Wednesday along with the decree was brought through parliament in Rome on Friday along with published online shortly afterward. There was a lot of political pressure to do the idea so fast.

DER NewsGerman: Have you been provided with sufficient support through Germany?

Rackete: I felt left inside lurch. Of course, there were individuals who wanted to help — cities of which wanted to take in our refugees, for example. although those efforts failed because of German Inside Minister Horst Seehofer, who had no desire to accept the cities’ offers. My impression was of which, on a national along with international level, nobody truly wanted to help. They kept passing the buck, even though we still had 40 rescued passengers on board.

DER NewsGerman: What might have to happen at political level to improve the situation?

Rackete: We need a solution in Europe for taking in people who have fled to us. along with for distributing them fairly. The Dublin system, which puts the responsibility on the shoulders of those countries with external borders, isn’t fair. (Eds: Under the Dublin rules, a refugee must apply for asylum inside first EU country they enter.)

DER NewsGerman: What should happen until such a solution is usually found?

Rackete: I’m curious to see what will happen with some other rescue ships of which are currently out at sea along with which will take refugees on board — the Open Arms, for example, which is usually operating near the North African coast.

DER NewsGerman: What will at This kind of point happen with the Sea-Watch 3?

Rackete: I assume our ship will be released soon. the idea was only held to secure evidence. There will then be some technical work, along with after of which, we’ll head back out to sea. the idea’s just hard to find a captain willing to take the risk.

DER NewsGerman: might you do the idea again?

Rackete: At the moment, my lawyers are discouraging me through such a thing. although if the charges against me are dropped, I’d head back out.

DER NewsGerman: Ms. Rackete, thank you due to This kind of interview.

Sea-Watch Captain Carola Rackete: ‘We Were All in a State of Total Despair’

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