We saved 26,000 people... Europe must do more

Two pilots who bought a plane to be able to save migrants in the Mediterranean say they were inspired by the work of the rescue charity group SOS-Mediterranée. We speak to one of its founders, Klaus Vogel, on what else needs to be done to stop the deaths

Inspired by a sense of solidarity among seafarers, German merchant navy captain Klaus Vogel put his career on hold to help migrants at risk of drowning in the Mediterranean.

Klaus Vogel
Merchant navy captain Klaus Vogel

With humanitarian and social aid worker Sophie Beau, from Marseille, he founded SOS Méditerranée which has saved more than 26,000 people.

Awarded the Grand Vermeil medal – the city of Paris’s highest honour – he has written a book, Tous sont vivants (éditions les Arènes), on their rescue work on the ship, Aquarius.

You were awarded the City of Paris medal and your book is with a French publisher – do you have other links with France?

SOS Méditerranée was set up as a European organisation in 2015 then as national associations in different countries, including France, so it was a natural choice to go with a French publisher. We have organisers in France, including my co-founder, and a large number of citizens who support us. Also some of our team on the ship are French as well as other nationalities including German, Italian, Spanish and British. The City of Paris medal was for all of us.

Why did you decide you had to do something?

The most important reason was that the Italian government rescue operation, Mare Nostrum, abruptly ended in October/November 2014 and there was literally nobody any more to help. Italy had rescued 150,000 in one year.

I met people, including co-founder Sophie Beau, and we decided to set up a European organisation and to raise money to hire a big, strong vessel.

We wanted to ...

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