Questions & Answers
... about United4Rescue
What is United4Rescue
United4Rescue is a non-profit, independent association that supports civilian sea rescue in the Mediterranean and helps to save lives. With the help of donations, we have already deployed two rescue ships and made several rescue missions possible.
At the same time, United4Rescue is a broad alliance of hundreds of organisations united by the conviction that people should not be left to drown. The alliance publicly advocates for sea rescue and safe escape routes and represents four demands.
How does United4Rescue help?
United4Rescue helps civilian sea rescue in an inter-organisational and unbureaucratic way, especially where there is an acute lack of money for rescue operations. For example, for the purchase and conversion of rescue ships, for equipment or deployment costs. We also create publicity for this important issue and make the broad social support for sea rescue in the Mediterranean visible.
Why support sea rescue?
Thousands of people are drowning in the Mediterranean, even though sea rescue is a state duty. The member states of the European Union, however, rely on isolation. We do not want to stand idly by and watch this policy and humanitarian catastrophe. Therefore, we support civilian sea rescue, which acts and saves lives as long as state sea rescue is lacking. Every life in distress at sea must be saved. Because the right to life is a human right.
How is United4Rescue financed?
United4Rescue works mainly with donations from organisations and individuals. In individual cases, we receive project-based funding, e.g. from municipalities and church sponsors.
How much church is in United4Rescue?
United4Rescue is an independent association and does not belong to the church. However, the association was initiated and founded by people from the Protestant Church. Accordingly, there are many supporters from the church.
Does United4Rescue operate rescue ships itself?
There are already good rescue organisations. United4Rescue has therefore decided to support sea rescue as a whole. Time and again, rescue organisations lack the money to go on missions. United4Rescue therefore enables sea rescue without operating rescue ships itself.
Can I become a member of the association?
Are there local groups?
Many alliance partners, groups and networks support United4Rescue with campaigns and appeals for donations. However, United4Rescue does not organise its own local groups. Here you can find alliance partners in your area.
What is the advantage of donating to United4Rescue?
By donating to United4Rescue, you help sea rescue where money is needed most urgently. For example, for the purchase and conversion of rescue vessels, for equipment or deployment costs. United4Rescue helps across organisations and unbureaucratically, but always checks the feasibility and professionalism of funding requests. So you can be sure: Your donation helps to save lives in distress at sea.
... about the alliance
What is an alliance partnership?
Alliance partnership means that an organisation supports civilian sea rescue ideally and shares our four demands. In return, they appear on the United4Rescue website with their logo and statement. The alliance partnership is not connected with any financial obligations! However, we are happy about every donation raised by alliance partners.
Who can become an alliance partner?
In general, all organisations, groups, associations, initiatives or companies can become alliance partners. The prerequisite is that they support the four demands of United4Rescue and respect the free democratic basic order. Alliance partners can register online here.
Why are so many parishes in the alliance?
United4Rescue is not an evangelical or church association. The association was founded after the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) was called upon to send a rescue ship to the Mediterranean at the Protestant Church Congress 2019 in Dortmund. That is why United4Rescue is very well known in churches.
However, the alliance has long since connected the most diverse denominations and religious communities, mosque and church congregations, Diakonie and Caritas, aej and BDKJ. And even beyond that, there is an enormous variety of organisations behind it — from farms to federal associations, from kindergartens to the city of Karlsruhe.
We have become an alliance partner - and now what?
Welcome aboard! The more we become, the louder and more visible our alliance is. From now on, you will receive the "Schiffspost", our newsletter, regularly — about every six weeks. Follow United4Rescue also on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. This way you will stay up to date on all important events at United4Rescue and in sea rescue. You can find more ways to support sea rescue here.
... about transparency
Does 100% of my donation go to sea rescue?
By autumn 2023, United4Rescue had received a total of around 6.5 million euros in donations. Of this, around 4.9 million went to sea rescue and other projects to save human lives. The remaining approximately 25 percent of the donation income was spent on public relations and fundraising projects (for example, information materials), as well as on personnel costs and administration (such as rent, office supplies and bookkeeping). We make our finances transparent every year in our annual reports.
How does United4Rescue ensure that donations actually save lives?
United4Rescue supports projects after careful examination if they are solidly planned and realistically feasible. Many members of United4Rescue have been working on the topic of sea rescue for years and contribute their professional expertise to the evaluation of projects. When United4Rescue supports a project, we also accompany it during its implementation.
Who decides which organisations and projects are supported?
How can an organisation apply for funding?
United4Rescue supports initiatives, institutions and organisations that are active in sea rescue or help people on the run. Applications for funding can be submitted at any time, there are no fixed application deadlines. A funding decision is made about eight weeks after the application is submitted. An application should comply with the funding criteria and clearly describe what funding is needed for and how the funding is made up. United4Rescue only provides funding for specific projects and as shortfall funding. It is important that adequate own or third-party funds are contributed to projects. If you are unsure whether your project is eligible for funding, please feel free to contact
Which rescue organisations are supported by United4Rescue?
We support civilian sea rescue in the Mediterranean — across organisations and especially where there is an acute lack of money. For example, for the purchase and conversion of rescue ships, the acquisition of equipment or the costs of rescue missions.
What is the advantage of donating to United4Rescue?
With a donation to United4Rescue you help sea rescue where money is needed most urgently. For example, for the purchase and conversion of rescue vessels, for equipment or deployment costs. United4Rescue helps across organisations and unbureaucratically, but always checks the feasibility and professionalism of funding requests. So you can be sure: Your donation helps to save lives in distress at sea.
What happens with my donation?
With your donation, you support civilian sea rescue in the Mediterranean — across organisations and especially where money is acutely lacking. For example, for the purchase and conversion of rescue ships, the acquisition of equipment or the costs of rescue missions. Before we forward donations to rescue organisations, we carefully examine the respective project. In this way, your donation always helps to save lives in distress at sea. You can find more information on our funding procedure here.
What are the advantages of a permanent donation or sustaining membership?
With a regular donation you secure the sea rescue in the long term and help us a lot to plan future projects. You make it possible for United4Rescue to help quickly and flexibly. At the same time, the administrative effort is less. As a supporting member you will receive additional information and invitations from us, for example to the general meeting.
When & how do I receive a donation receipt?
You will receive your donation receipt in February of the following year as an annual donation receipt. We need your address for this! To save costs and the environment, we also send donation receipts by e-mail as a PDF document. If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact us: .
Amounts up to € 300 can also be claimed from the tax office with this "simplified proof of donation". Simply submit this with proof of transfer, for example your bank statement.
How can I collect condolence donations?
Instead of flowers and wreaths, ask for a donation to United4Rescue during the funeral service to support sea rescue and save lives.
Transfer the condolence donation collectively to us or ask for a donation in the obituary. You can find an example here:
"Death should not have the last word. In the spirit of the deceased, we therefore ask for a donation to United4Rescue instead of flowers and wreaths. The association supports civilian rescue ships in the Mediterranean. Donate online at www.united4rescue.org or under the keyword _________ to the following account:
United4Rescue – Gemeinsam Retten e.V.
IBAN: DE93 1006 1006 1111 1111 93
Bank für Kirche und Diakonie eG — KD-Bank".
On request, we will be happy to provide you with the total amount donated and a list of the donors who have made a donation using your keyword.
Do I receive a donation receipt if I have donated on Facebook or Betterplace?
If you donate on Facebook or Betterplace, you will receive a donation confirmation by email from the respective provider. The donations will be forwarded to us, but we are not allowed to issue donation receipts for this.
Can I donate from a foreign account?
Yes, you can also donate from abroad without any problems. However, donations to United4Rescue are only deductible in Germany.
Where can I find the assessment notice on non-profit status?
United4Rescue promotes the charitable purposes of helping those persecuted for political, racial or religious reasons, refugees and displaced persons (§ 52 para. 2 p. 1 no. 10 AO) and rescue from danger to life (§ 52 para. 2 p. 1 no. 11 AO).
Can forwarded donations from third parties receive their own donation receipt?
No. Donation receipts may only be issued for the person or organisation that transferred the donation. Only those who donate themselves can receive a donation receipt. Please draw attention to this if, for example, you are collecting donations in a circle of friends.
How can I change my personal data or my permanent donation?
Please contact us by mail or phone if, for example, you have moved and would like to change your address: / +49 30 75438542
How can I help without money?
Why do people flee across the Mediterranean?
People have very different reasons for making the perilous journey across the Mediterranean. Many are fleeing violence, terror and hardship. Others have lost their livelihoods in their home countries, are fleeing out of desperation and lack of prospects — and hope for a better future for themselves and their families. The stories told by those rescued are very different. But all of them report that the misery on land was greater than the fear of drowning.
How many people drown in the Mediterranean?
More than 28,000 people (as of October 2023) have drowned in the Mediterranean since 2014, according to the UN Organisation for Migration (IOM). However, the number of unreported cases is likely to be significantly higher, as not every boat accident becomes known. The detailed IOM statistics can be found here.
Isn't sea rescue actually a state task?
Every ship is obliged to rescue at sea, as are coastal states. However, in 2014, the large-scale Mare Nostrum search and rescue mission in the Mediterranean, organised by the European Union (EU) and Italy, was suspended. In 2019, the EU also ended all rescue activities under Operation EUNAVFORMed-Sophia. As a result, civilian sea rescue is currently the only way to save human lives from drowning.
Why is civilian sea rescue criminalised and obstructed?
Civilian sea rescue is under pressure because the member states of the European Union do not want to take in refugees. In order to prevent people seeking protection from reaching Europe, the focus is on isolation and deterrence. The political calculation is that people will no longer dare to cross if many boats sink, people drown and there is no sea rescue at all. However, this cynical calculation does not work: The desperation of those seeking protection is so great that many would rather drown than stay in the camps in Libya, for example.
Where can I find more reliable information on sea rescue?
The UN Refugee Agency provides information on the topic of sea rescue and the situation in the Mediterranean in general (https://www.uno-fluechtlingshilfe.de/hilfe-weltweit/fluechtlingsschutz/seenotrettung/) and on the situation in the Mediterranean in particular (https://www.uno-fluechtlingshilfe.de/hilfe-weltweit/mittelmeer/).
The International Organisation for Migration (IOM https://missingmigrants.iom.int/region/mediterranean) and the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR https://data2.unhcr.org/en/situations/mediterranean) provide up-to-date, reliable data on refugee movements and the number of victims.
Where may rescued persons be taken - and where not?
People rescued from distress at sea must be taken to the nearest "place of safety" (POS). This is stipulated in Article 98 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Bringing people back to the danger from which they are fleeing is therefore illegal. International law also prohibits returning people to states where they are at risk of torture or other serious human rights violations. Accordingly, Libya is not safe. In the detention camps there, people are tortured, raped, abused and enslaved. These terrible conditions have been documented by Doctors Without Borders, among others.
Returning people to North Africa would also deprive them of the opportunity to apply for asylum. However, the right to asylum is a fundamental European right. This means that Tunisia or Morocco are not safe places either, as neither state has an asylum system.
What happens to the rescued people once they have been brought ashore?
After their arrival on land, the rescued people are taken into state care. They are taken to shelters, given medical treatment if necessary, and the authorities establish their identity. A so-called "ad hoc relocation" mechanism was agreed between Germany, France, Italy and Malta in 2019, whereby the rescued people were distributed to various European countries after a security check, where they can then apply for protection in an asylum procedure. The website https://eu-relocation-watch.info/#malta-agreement provides detailed information on this topic [only in English]. However, this mechanism is currently suspended because the number of arrivals is too low and Italy is supposed to receive the people itself in terms of capacity.
Are the rescued really all refugees?
People have very different reasons for venturing the perilous journey across the Mediterranean Sea. Many are fleeing persecution, massive human rights violations, war, violence, terror and hardship. Others have lost their livelihoods in their home countries, are fleeing out of desperation and lack of prospects — and hope for a better future for themselves and their families. The stories told by those rescued are very different. But all of them report that the misery on land was greater than the fear of drowning.
Sea rescue is humanitarian emergency aid. For every human life is equally worth saving. The international law of the sea clearly prescribes this: Every person in distress at sea must be rescued and brought to safety. The legal protection or residence status must then be decided by state authorities in a fair, individual asylum procedure. This is not the task of civilian sea rescue.
Don't rescue ships lead to more people fleeing?
No. Boat people are fleeing war, persecution and hardship. There is no evidence to support the claim that it is civilian rescue at sea that causes people to flee across the Mediterranean. Various empirical studies — including those by Oxford University, the Migration Policy Centre, and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) — confirm this: There is no correlation between the presence of rescue ships and the number of refugee boats. The so-called pull effect therefore has no factual basis. This is confirmed by the evidence: Even if there is often not a single civilian rescue ship in operation for weeks, many people flee across the Mediterranean. What the studies prove, on the other hand, is that more people drown when there are no rescue ships on the scene.
Moreover, civilian sea rescue was only founded in 2015, after more and more people drowned and state sea rescue was lacking. Civilian rescue at sea is therefore the reaction to the refugee boats and the deaths in the Mediterranean — and not the other way round.
Aren't you playing into the hands of the touts?
Civilian sea rescue was founded in response to the thousands of deaths in the Mediterranean. It is a myth that the rescue ships have a so-called pull effect. This has been proven by numerous studies, but also by sight: even when there is not a single rescue ship in operation for weeks, people still flee across the Mediterranean. Because there are no legal, safe escape routes, people have no choice but to place themselves in the hands of criminal smuggling gangs or dubious flight helpers. In this way, people's need becomes a business.
In Libya, local militias and criminal clans are particularly active. They provide the so-called coast guard, which is co-financed by the EU. And they also run the torture camps to which fleeing people are returned. In this way, a lucrative cycle has been established in which the militias earn twice: from the smuggling — as well as from the capture and return of the fugitives. People who have been able to escape this cycle often report that they have already attempted the crossing several times and that their families have been repeatedly blackmailed for ransom.
This conflict economy, in which people's need becomes a business, can only be broken by ending the civil war in Libya.
Why are rescued people not brought to Tunisia?
After President Kais Saied's diatribes against refugees, racist attacks have massively increased, especially against people from Central and West African countries. Black people are arrested and arbitrarily detained or experience aggression and threats from the population. Hundreds of people have been driven into the desert on the border with Libya without water and food, and there have been several deaths. The EU states turn a blind eye to the violence and promise Saied lavish financial aid, because Tunisia is supposed to prevent refugees from reaching Europe. Yet the violence clearly shows that Tunisia is not a safe country!
Why don't you fight the causes of flight?
Preventing the causes of flight is important so that people do not have to flee in the first place, but can live in their homeland in dignity and safety. However, refugee protection requires both long-term commitment to global justice and peace as well as acute emergency aid and sea rescue.
Accordingly, United4Rescue as an alliance for civilian sea rescue unites very different actors and aid organisations, also from development aid.
What is meant by safe and legal escape routes?
The demand for safe and legal escape routes refers to the fact that no one is criminalised and persecuted for seeking protection in another country. Everyone has the right to leave their country to seek protection from persecution elsewhere, according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. However, there is no right to be granted asylum. And almost always not even the possibility to get legally to where one could apply for asylum. That is why people, in their need and desperation, accept the most dangerous escape routes or have to entrust themselves to smugglers. If there were legal, safe routes, this would not be necessary.