Civil Fleet

What is the Civil Fleet?

The Civil Fleet is a fleet of civilian monitoring and rescue vessels patrolling the Mediterranean, now the deadliest migration route in the world. When Mediterranea Saving Humans was first founded, the organisations active in the Central Mediterranean could be counted on the fingers of one hand. Now the Civil Fleet is made up of 16 NGOs and has 17 ships and 3 aircrafts. The joint coordinated action of the fleet guarantees the continuous, constant presence of civil society on the world’s deadliest border, carrying out monitoring and maritime search and rescue operations.

What is the Civil MRCC?

The Civil Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) is a coordination and documentation platform for people in distress in the Central Mediterranean Sea.

With over 20,000 migrants dead or gone missing since 2014, the Central Mediterranean is one of the world’s deadliest borders. The deaths in this area are not accidental. They are the result of policies, actions and omissions financed and enacted by the European Union and its member states.

With so many people choosing or being forced to risk their lives crossing the Central Mediterranean to seek protection in Europe, the EU member states, rather than guaranteeing a safe entry channel, have set up a system of mass forced repatriation to Libya and Tunisia.

The maritime authorities of the EU member states in the region have consequently become ever more dysfunctional, adopting a practice of systematic omissions and delayed responses while facilitating forced repatriation, in contravention of the laws of the sea and international human rights treaties.

The Civil MRCC was thus founded to guarantee the rescue of people in distress at sea and their disembarkation in a safe place, in strict compliance with international law.


Alarm Phone

Watch The Med Alarm Phone was created in October 2014 by networks of activists and civil society actors in Europe and North Africa. The project established a self-organised emergency number for migrants in distress in the Mediterranean Sea. Their main objective is to provide wider visibility to the SOS of migrants in distress. Alarm Phone documents the situation, informs the coast guards and, if necessary, mobilises additional rescue possibilities in real time.


Compass Collective

A partire dal 25 agosto 2023, lǝ attivistǝ di Compass Collective sosterranno l’azione di soccorso delle persone in movimento nel Mar Mediterraneo. Con la nostra barca a vela, sono previste tre settimane di osservazione, durante le quali documenteremo le violazioni dei diritti umani, terremo d'occhio le emergenze in mare e assisteremo le operazioni di soccorso da parte delle navi di soccorso più grandi. In caso di emergenza, interverremo.**



The central Mediterranean Sea has been the world's most dangerous migration route for years: more than 20,000 migrants have died or gone missing since 2014, according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), an average of six people a day. More than 1,300 this year alone. Life Support is EMERGENCY's Search and Rescue (SAR) vessel in the central Mediterranean.


Iuventa Crew

The crew of the Iuventa conducted search and rescue operations during 2016 and 2017, until the vessel was seized by the Italian authorities on 2 August 2017. Part of the crew, along with other NGOs, was investigated for aiding and abetting unauthorised immigration. For six of the 10 defendants, the case was closed in March 2021. For the remaining four crew members, the case was opened.


Louise Michel

The MV Louise Michel is a former French Navy vessel customised for search and rescue operations. At 30 metres long and capable of reaching 28 knots, it was purchased with the proceeds from the sale of a Banksy artwork, and then decorated by the artist with a fire extinguisher. It is named after the French anarchist Louise Michel and aims to combine rescue with the principles of feminism, anti-racism and anti-fascism.



Maldusa è un'associazione culturale che si propone di facilitare la libertà di movimento, supportando le infrastrutture già esistenti per la solidarietà con le persone migranti, e di avviare due stazioni di ricerca e documentazione a Palermo e a Lampedusa.



Those who live at sea know what it is like to find yourself in difficulty at the mercy of the waves. The idea of being in an unseaworthy boat that is in danger of capsizing, killing you, is a terrible thought. Even the refugees are terrified, considering what they have been through, for them the sea is the only alternative. That is why we respect their choice. We know that rescuing in itself does not solve problems in the long run, but it is our duty as human beings to take action... without judging.

Doctors Without Borders

Médecins Sans Frontières is an international non-governmental organisation, founded in Paris on December 22nd, 1971 by doctors and journalists, including Bernard Kouchner, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1999. It has been monitoring and conducting rescue operations in the Mediterranean since 2015. Since 2021 they have been operating on board the Geo Barents ship, equipped with a clinic, examination and obstetrics rooms. On board an MSF team consists of 20 people and 12 crew members


Mediterranea Saving Humans

The idea of Mediterranea was born in the summer of 2018 out of indignation at the thousands of deaths in the Mediterranean and the policy of closed ports. From the union of people and associative realities, the civil society platform organised itself and in a short time put the first and still the only Italian-flagged civil rescue vessel at sea. Exactly five years after the tragic Lampedusa massacre, the Mare Jonio set sail from the port of Augusta for its first monitoring and rescue mission on the night of 3 to 4 October 2018.


Mission Lifeline

"Because every life counts. Every day, people risk their lives to flee their homeland. They drown in the Mediterranean. They suffer the cold in the forests on Europe's outer border. They live as prisonersǝ in inhuman camps - forgottenǝ and persǝ. We do not accept this. [...] Where states fail, we must act. That is why we founded MISSION LIFELINE in 2016."


Open Arms

Open Arms is a humanitarian, non-governmental, non-profit organisation. Our main mission is to protect the lives of the most vulnerable in emergency situations. It originates from a sea rescue company with over 20 years of experience on the Spanish coast. We protect the lives of those abandonedǝ in international waters fleeing war, persecution and poverty.


Pilotes Volontaires

The action of Pilotes Volontaires consists of providing aerial observation support to the search and rescue operations at sea, enabling vessels in distress to be located. From the air, the pilots have a wider field of vision and flight speed enabling them to cover a vast search area. The combination of maritime and aerial forces greatly increases the chances of finding people in distress.


R42 Sail & Rescue

The Imara is a sailing boat that monitors and performs first aid missions in the central Mediterranean between Sicily and Libya. On one of the world's deadliest routes, the EU is allowing thousands of desperate people to drown while fleeing — speculating it will operate as a deterrent. And it has continued unabated for years. This is unacceptable. Like other civil organisations, we want to draw attention to this inhumane practice and rescue people before they drown.


ResQ People

Human beings, laws and rights continue to die in the Mediterranean. RESQ - People Saving People was born to give a concrete sign and counter the culture of indifference, putting another ship at sea to support women, men and children, forced to move from dramatic situations or willing to pursue their dream, as is their right.



The primary objective of ResqShip is to save lives. Every day, hundreds of people leave their homes, fleeing wars, persecution, rape, torture and hunger. They flee from hopelessness and despair. North Africa, and particularly Libya (a country in perpetual civil war), is a stopover for hundreds of thousands of people that has become a nightmare. Reprehensibly, there are no legal ways for people whose lives are threatened to reach safety — This is why ResQ came into being.


Salvamento Marítimo Humanitario

In 2017, given the tragic situation in the central Mediterranean, thanks to the institutions and many volunteers, Salvamento Marítimo Humanitario decided to launch the maritime rescue project, AITA MARI- Proyecto Maydayterraneo. Because in the face of the humanitarian migratory crisis in the Mediterranean, people cannot be left to drown in utter abandonment.


Sea Eye

Sea-Eye e. V. is a civil rescue organisation that was founded in 2015 to stop seeing people dying in the Mediterranean Sea. In rescue missions, it searches for and rescues people in danger at sea on the world's deadliest escape route and fights against the daily loss of life at sea.


Sea Punks

Raphael had had enough of his job as a ship mechanic and bought a tugboat to start his own business. Upon seeing it, brothers Benjamin and Gerson said it looked more like a rescue boat at sea. The three agreed and decided to give it a try.


Sea Watch

Sea-Watch was born at the end of 2014 thanks to the initiative of a few volunteers who decided to no longer stand by and watch the thousands of people drowning in the Mediterranean Sea. It thus seeks to fill an institutional vacuum created by the end of the Mare Nostrum mandate, an operation that saved more than 130,000 lives but was not taken over by the EU.


Sea Watch Airborne

Sea-Watch does not only operate at sea, but also in the sky. With its two monitoring aircraft it is able to cover a wide area of the sea, where it documents human rights violations and reports cases of danger. If, during one of its flights, it notices a maritime or air emergency, it reports it to the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centres (MRCCs) and rescue ships.

SoS Humanity

Founded in 2015 in Berlin as SOS Méditerranée Germany, it has been operating in the central Mediterranean Sea since 2016. During this time, as part of the European network SOS Méditerranée, it has rescued 34,631 childrenǝ, women and men from drowning and brought themǝ to a place of safety. Since 1 January 2022, it has continued its work as SOS Humanity - independent of the former European network - and sent one of its ships to the Mediterranean Sea in August 2022.


SoS Méditerranée

SOS MEDITERRANEE is a European humanitarian organisation entirely funded by global solidarity and civil society support. With the Aquarius and then the Ocean Viking, SOS MEDITERRANEE has brought more than 31,000 men, women and children in danger in the Mediterranean to safety thanks to the support of thousands of European citizens.


Safe Passage Foundation

The Safe Passage Foundation (formerly known as Stiftungsfonds Zivile Seenotrettung) was founded in Germany in September 2019, when an appeal for donations made by comedians Jan Böhmermann and Klaas Heufer-Umlauf raised more than one million euros, following the rescue operation of Captain Carola Rackete and the ship Sea-Watch 3.


Echoes: the Civil MRCC Magazine

This is Echoes, a news and analysis bulletin on the situation of SAR activities in the Central Mediterranean. You can find fully downloadable issues of Echoes here in English.

Echoes is produced by the Civil MRCC, (the Civil Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre), a platform for people in distress in the Central Mediterranean Sea.


2023, a year marked by a large increase in sea arrivals in comparison to the year before, and not only on the Central Mediterranean route. 2023, a year of intensified attempts by the EU to expand border control in collaboration with its autocratic partners in North Africa. 2023, another year of even tougher racist agitation and deprivation of rights all throughout Europe and beyond.

Borders have been challenged and have shifted on various levels and directions this past year. It is not difficult to predict that this conflict will continue and possibly escalate in 2024. As Civil MRCC, we promise to stay at the side of refugees and migrants and in solidarity with their daily struggles to practice freedom of movement and find a safer and better life.

In 2023:
• 157.314 people arrived to Italy and Malta by sea, a significant number of whom arrived autonomously (UNHCR figures until 30 November)
• 12.523 people were rescued by the civil fleet from more than 230 boats in distress (CMRCC figures until 31 December)
• 17.025 people were pushed back to Libya after they were intercepted by the EU-supported so-called Libyan Coast Guard (IOM figures) and 48.074 people were intercepted by the Tunisian authorities (FTDES figures until 30 November)
• 1.902 people have been reported dead or missing on the Central Mediterranean Route (UNHCR figures until 31 December) including 1.300 people who fled Tunisia (FTDES figures).

27 February 2024 — Published by Civil MRCC


On 11th of October 2023 an impressive commemorAction took place near the port of Lampedusa to remember the victims of the big shipwrecks ten years ago and at the same time to point out the responsibility of the European border regime in the ongoing death at sea that continues to this day. According to IOM figures, in 2023 another 2480 people died adding to the 17,000 deaths and disappearances recorded by MMP since 2014.
As safe passage was denied to people on the move, they were killed by a racist policy of migration control, determent, and externalization. We will never forget and never forgive those state border crimes while we continue our support for and our solidarity with all people on the move.
Since the beginning of the year 2023:
· 144.675 people arrived in Italy by boat, a significant number of whom arrived autonomously (UNHCR figure until November 5)
· 10.693 people were rescued by the civil fleet from more than 200 boats in distress (CMRCC figure until October 31)
· 14.894 people were pushed back to Libya after they were intercepted by the EU-supported so-called Libyan Coast Guard (UNHCR figures as of November 4) and 44.092 people were intercepted by the Tunisian authorities (FTDES figures until October 31)
· 2.188 people have been reported dead or missing on the Central Mediterranean Route (IOM figures until November 18) including 1.293 people who fled Tunisia (FTDES figures until October 31).

06 January 2024 — Published by CivilMRCC


With 112 landings and more than 5000 people on the move reaching Lampedusa in one single day, the 12th of September 2023 marked a new level of breaking through the Central Mediterranean borders. While we have already highlighted the tenacity of refugees and migrants in our last issues with reports and pictures from the last months, in September the dynamics reached another peak point. It remembers - not in its dimension but in its moments and spirit - the summer of migration in the Aegean Sea and on the Balkan route in 2015: a volatile situation of, on the one hand, humanitarian crises, border violence, and deaths at sea, and on the other hand, the powerful struggle for freedom of movement with thousands of people overcoming the violent and racist border regime.

Since the beginning of the year 2023:

  • 132,146 people arrived in Italy by boat, a significant number of whom arrivedautonomously (UNHCR figure until the 24th of September)
  • 11,197 people were rescued by the civil fleet from more than 180 boats in distress (CMRCC figures)
  • 10,900 people were pushed back to Libya after they were intercepted by the EU-supported so-called Libyan Coast Guard (UNHCR figures as of September) and 39,568 people were intercepted by the Tunisian authorities(FTDES figures until 31st of August). Those figures do not take into account invisible shipwrecks.

05 October 2023 — Published by Civil MRCC


While the situation in Libya did not improve, the conditions for refugees and migrants in Tunisia continuously worsened during the last few months. Against this background, more than 75.000 people made it to Italian shores until the middle of July 2023. On the 29th of June, a record number of 46 boats reached Lampedusa in a single day, mainly coming from Sfax. The arrival of so many people on the island forced the Italian government to accelerate the transfer process to the mainland. Thousands of people on the move find themselves in a chaotic transit situation in southern Italy. Right when they were just able to overcome one of the deadliest border areas in the world, they are confronted with the attempts of the government to maintain control and filter out people for detention and deportation. Solidarity at sea and on land is needed to resist the racist selection and deterrence policies!

Since the beginning of the year 2023:
• 76.325 people arrived in Italy by boat, a significant number of whom arrived autonomously (UNHCR figure until the 15th of July).
• 6.134 people were rescued by the civil fleet from 99 boats in distress (CMRCC figure).
• 8.718 people were pushed back to Libya after they were intercepted by the EU-supported so-called Libyan Coast Guard (IOM figures until 8th July) and 32.792 people were intercepted by the Tunisian authorities. (FTDES figures until 30th June)
• 1.728 people who fled Libya died or are reported missing (IOM figures until 8th July) and 608 people who fled Tunisia died or are reported missing (FTDES figures untill 30th June).

25 July 2023 — Published by Civil MRCC


While the welcoming of refugees from Ukraine demonstrates that another approach with free movement and free choice is always possible, the racist policy of externalising and brutalising the European border regime in the south blatantly continues. At the same time, an increasing number of boats reached close to Italian shores without any support, an expression of a contested space in which the autonomies of migration remain constantly alive.
Despite and against the post-fascist Meloni government, which is backed up by EUpolicies, money and Frontex operations, people exercise their right to move against all risks, obstacles and state-led border crimes. Italian Coast Guard units are forced to coordinate rescues in international waters, while the civil fleet appears with even more rescue ships than last year. We have to expect a „hot“ summer - beyond the climate crisis - and the future is unwritten.
In any case, the struggle to abolish the inhuman borders will continue.

During the first 4 months of the year 2023:
• 45.089 people arrived in Italy by boat, of which a significant number arrived autonomously (UNHCR figure until 14th of May)
• 3.175 people were rescued by the civil fleet from 44 boats in distress (CMRCC figure)
• 5.058 people were pushed back to Libya after they were intercepted by the EU-supported so-called Libyan Coast Guard (IOM figures until the 15th of May)
• 975 died or are reported missing (IOM figure).

18 May 2023 — Published by Civil MRCC


Abandoning people at sea as daily practice and policy in Malta. Repression of the Italian government against the civil fleet, while a shipwreck at the coast of Calabria was not prevented and another one was intentionally provoked in international sea.
An escalation of racism and violence against black people promoted by the Tunisian president. In three main articles, we try to cover and to contextualize the horrific recent developments in the Central Mediterranean region. We do it with the promise, never to accept the death at sea, the murderous EU border regime and its externalisation attempts to North-African countries. We will go on to fight for safe passage and an open Mediterranean space, in and from both sides of the coast. Solidarity will win, no one is illegal!
During the first two months of the year 2023:

• 14.543 people arrived in Italy by boat and of which a significant number arrived autonomously (UNHCR figure until the 6th of March).
• 995 people were rescued by the civil fleet from 16 boats in distress (CMRCC figure).
• 3.046 people were pushed back to Libya after they were intercepted by the EU-supported so-called Libyan Coast Guard (IOM figures until the 4th of March). This number is additional to the shipwreck in front of Crotone where 70 people who departed from Turkey lost their lives. 335 people who fled Libya died or are reported missing (IOM figure).

31 March 2023 — Published by Civil MRCC


Early in January 2023, the Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs and International cooperation, Antonio Tajani, announced that he will go "soon" to visit Tunisia to ask the Tunisian authorities for a stronger commitment to combat the “irregular departures” of migrants and to encourage a greater number of repatriations. Shortly before, the EU Council adopted an action plan proposed by the Commission to further increase controls in the central Mediterranean. Alongside Egypt and Libya, Tunisia is targeted to “develop jointly targeted actions to prevent irregular departures, support more effective border and migration management, and reinforce search and rescue capacities”.
While Tunisia has seen an increase in departures from its coastline in recent months, it is increasingly the target of European countries' border externalization policies and controls are being tightened along the route to Italy. While this route is still not well known by civil SAR actors, the CMRCC proposes to dedicate this 4th issue of Echoes to developments and struggles along the Tunisian route.
During the year 2022:

▪ 104 484 people arrived in Italy and 450 in Malta, of which a significant number arrived autonomously (UNHCR figures)
▪ 12 467 people were rescued by the civil fleet from 199 boats in distress (CMRCC figures)
▪ 24 684 people were pushed back to Libya after they were intercepted by the EU supported so-called Libyan Coast Guard (IOM figures)
▪ 1 377 people died or are reported missing (IOM figures)

23 January 2023 — Published by Civil MRCC


At the end of September 2022, the arrival in power in Italy of a post-fascist party has reinforced a discourse of hatred, promoting racism and closed borders. As more pronounced attacks against civil sea rescue NGOs already begin to take place, it is clear that civil society will feature as one of the targets of the new government. We, as Civil MRCC repeat loud and clear: against fascism, solidarity will win! We will continue to fight together and with people on the move for an open Mediterranean! In “Echoes“, the bimonthly publication of the CMRCC, significant aspects of SAR in the Central Med are reflected upon, current topics discussed, analysis and research presented and the self-organized struggles of refugees and migrants highlighted.
From the 1st of January 2022 until the 31st of October 2022:

▪ Around 80 000 people arrived in Italy, of which a significant number arrived autonomously (UNHCR figures)
▪ 11 346 people were rescued by the civil fleet from 182 boats in distress (CMRCC figures)
▪ 16 621 people were pushed back to Libya, and 1129 people died or are reported missing (IOM figures until 3rd of October)

01 November 2022 — Published by Civil MRCC


CommemorAction - a verbal combination of mourning and anger - developed by relatives, survivors and supporters as an outcry to the ongoing racist murder at the borders. In reference to the transnational days of CommemorAction in the beginning of September in Zarzis/Tunisia, we dedicate this 2nd issue of Echoes to the people missing and drowned at sea.
Not without emphasizing once again, however, at the beginning - that death at sea (as more generally the continuing death and suffering at the borders) is nothing natural and inevitable, but rather takes place as the result of the EU visa and border regime which has been built up over the past decades. This can change! The Ukrainian war shows that when there is a political will to welcome refugees, there is also a way. Open borders and safe passage made possible trains, ferries and flights - what better way to immediately stop the death at the borders? We as the Civil MRCC stand for an open Mediterranean region, as a necessary and crucial step towards a fairer world. Again, the last two months show that despite the increasing restrictions imposed upon freedom of movement, people will continue to move autonomously and with the support of civil society actors.
From the 1st of January until the 31st of August 2022:

• Over 40,794 people arrived in Italy, of which a significant number arrived autonomously
• 8,435 people were rescued by the civil fleet from 137 boats in distress (CMRCC figures)
• 11,612 people were pushed back to Libya, and 918 people died or are reported missing (IOM figures)

01 September 2022 — Published by Civil MRCC


Civil Maritime Rescue Coordination Center (CMRCC): this is not a future idea or a long-term vision. No, it is already a daily practice!
Since the end of Mare Nostrum, the Maltese and Italian MRCCs and Coast Guards became more and more dysfunctional for persons in distress, who had departed from Libya or Tunisia. The people on the move regularly experience non-assistance or even pushbacks as consequences of European racist migration policies. Civil fleet actors had to fulfill the gap left by authorities in the international areas of Libyan and Maltese search and rescue zones. The Alarm Phone hotline, which is working 24/7, found itself more and more often in a role as communication center for rescue coordination.
From the 1 st of January until the 30th of June 2022:
▪ Over 20.000 people arrived in Italy, a large part of which autonomously
▪ 5.378 people were rescued by the civil fleet from 84 boats in distress (CMRCC figures)
▪ 9.973 people were pushed back to Libya, and 777 people died or are reported missing (IOM figures)

07 January 2022 — Published by Civil MRCC

Free Mare Jonio

After rescuing 116 people, Mare Jonio was fined 10000 euro.
Help us pay it so we can return to the sea as soon as possible

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