Guest blog by Brendan Woodhouse, aboard the Seawatch 3 German Life Boat, off Malta
24 January 2019
Yesterday, Le Stadio Seawatche held the FIFA World Cup for people held hostage at sea.
Teams came from Sudan, South Sudan, England, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Holland, Ghana, Guinnea Conakry, Guinnea Bissau, and the Central African Republic. The winner was everybody. But mostly me.
Football is an international language which bonds and unites communities. You can be from anywhere in the world and have nothing in common, but drop a ball, and we play. Don’t have a ball? No problem. We’ll make one out of rags and tape. And we will play.
When you play football, you don’t think about your troubles. You only think about the game. How to trick your opponent. How to stop them. How to score.
I loved our match, and I love how it made so many people smile. Despite all of their ordeals, we laughed, we played, we celebrated, we grew. The storm in the media about us was forgotten because we were just a bunch of lads playing football.
Now, please, open the ports!
23 January 2019
We keep on knocking but we can't come in. Anybody ever wonder why?
The mood on the ship is still good. Our guests fully understand the situation, and are showing incredible patience.
Today, I made a football out of rags and tape, and we played on the rear deck. There's a young boy from Sudan, 17 years old, who scored the greatest goal possible to score on a ship, in a stormy sea, with no shoes and blankets in the way.
Earlier, we'd played three pin bowling with three water bottles and the ball I'd made. This morning I did some exercises to keep spirits up. Loads of people joined in. I think that I enjoyed it the most though! I've just finished playing cards. The vibe is magical, all things considered.
The guys have asked about how long it's going to take. I have no answers for that, other than to say that we have to be patient. It may take many days, but we will wait! I explained that we can't just sail the ship in and let them out. That we have to wait for permission. And we will wait whilst the politicians bicker like children, but eventually they will let us in.
But this really makes me think why? I mean, think how easy it is for you to go just anywhere in the world. Why is that? You can go to any country in Africa and if you wanted to work, you would be able to. I keep asking why?
My friend Doro and I have been talking a lot. I said that I'm ashamed that the doors to Europe are closed to people like him. People who have suffered. People who's lives are at risk. He said "Don't blame them. Some people, they only see skin"
Doro is incredibly intelligent. He speaks seven languages, but it's not just that. He is wise. I mean really wise. I gravitate to him constantly. He explained the situation in Libya vividly. He wants the world to know what is happening and what they did to him. My gentle friend, who is wise, kind, and courageous has experienced what nobody should. The others call him Mo, which in Sarahoule, means 'helper'. He inspires me in every conversation. I wish I could take him to England, but, you see, some people, they only see skin!
22 January 2019
Still waiting for a port of safety for our 47 guests onboard the Seawatch 3. They really are a lovely bunch of guys. The community spirit which they have is something beautiful and I love being with them. The dangers that they have faced are incredible. They have been beaten, abused and tortured in the most despicable of ways. I'll be writing a few of their stories in due course and sharing photos just as soon as there is sufficient internet to make that happen.
Europe seems afraid of these gentle souls for reasons that I can not grasp. I showed them some go pro footage of their rescue today, and had to show it over and over again. They told me how afraid they were that we were the so called Libyan Coast Guard as we bounced through the waves on the RHIB towards them. Once they heard us speak and saw my white face, they said that they new that they were safe. They celebrated, and cried tears of relief, joy and exhaustion. The emotions are still so raw.
I've spent hours talking to them about their experiences, and I'm staggered by their humanity, by their struggle. But despite everything that they have faced, they breathe empathy with one another. They are kind and gentle to each other. They are supportive of us as a crew and feel a sense of mutual responsibility for all of us on the ship. I am awestruck by their resolve.
They've spoken of their dreams. Each one wants to work. None have spoken of Europe helping them, but of how they want to build a new life. They live in true hope. But I'm terrified for them, although I don't show it at all. For I know that once they have landed on European soil, their struggle will continue. A new chapter to their suffering will begin. With mistrust and hostility about them. For I have seen how people struggle to cope with the hostility in places like Paris, where they are forced to the streets, in the snow and the cold. May we offer them a warm heart when we can.
One boy has been telling me for days that he's 15 years old. I looked at him, sure that he was younger. His friend told me that he is making out that he is older than he really is because he does not want to face this life as a teenager. He's tiny, and really quite adorable. He's going to own up about his real age soon. He's 12 or 13. I asked him what he's doing on the ship, and where he wants to go. In a second he replied "Marseilles". I asked why. "That's where my father lives" he said. This young boy is crossing the deadliest border on the planet to meet his dad. And he's doing it alone! Open the ports man!
21 January 2019
Reports from the people we rescued on the 19th are grim. One guys story is the worst that I've heard, and his scars are utterly evident. He recalled the story of each wound to me. It hurt just to listen. But I'll write about him another time.
There are very real reasons that people go to Libya, and the nature of the situation there eats them up. Several people on our ship have been auctioned off as slaves. Lots have been tortured whilst a video call is made to their families to extort money. Mothers and fathers have sold their houses to pay for the release of their sons. That is why we should never take the people back.
Despite these stories though, as our ship requests a safe port in Europe, the people on our ship are fantastic. We are trying to build a community of love on our ship. And everybody mucks in. The guy with the worst scars I've ever seen smiles and says that he is safe now, finally, after years of imprisonment, torture and abuse. He sits and washes the dishes each time we eat.
We play music together. We do fitness classes. We play cards. We talk. We pray. We sing. We have language lessons. We talk of Europe and of Africa. One Love abounds on this ship, and I am utterly privileged to be on it.
Now, tell your politicians to open the ports to some of the kindest and gentlest men that our world needs.
19 January 2019
We just rescued 47 people off a rubber boat. Earlier Watch The Med - Alarmphone as well as Moonbird had informed the ship and the responsible authorities about a possible case, after a search the Sea-Watch 3 finally found them. Now all are safe and being taken care of.