What I learnt from engaging with Seebrücke

“Seebrücke” or “Sea-bridge” is an international civil society movement advocating for a safe passage of asylum seekers on the Mediterranean Sea. Everyone can be engaged in the movement, let it be by participating in a demonstration or a flash mob. What I learned is that one does not need more than an idea and the will to bring it to action.

During my law studies, I have already been researching on the rights of refugees and the right to asylum and noticed that these rights are systematically undermined by the practice of states and state unions. 2015 the government under Merkel decided to take in large numbers of refugees. I was satisfied with the decision since it matched my perception of Germany: a country which stands in for human rights and acts in accordance with its Constitution. Apparently, we learned from the Second World War.

Later, the atmosphere in Germany and all around Europe changed with populism and nationalism on the rise. In particular, hate speech Political leaders no longer advocated for refugees as the majority of society stayed indifferent against populist rhetoric. I felt that the support was gone and this gap brought many people to act upon it. On Facebook, I found out about a Sea-Bridge demonstration in Bremen and met really nice people there. Another demonstration in Hamburg followed where I participated with a friend from Kazakhstan for whom it was the first demonstration in life. Human Rights Watch condemns that demonstrations in Kazakhstan are stopped by police forces.

Feeling the need to become active and to contribute to Sea-Bridge, I became firstly a member of the action group on Facebook. Initially, I wanted to organise a flea-market as an information platform for refugees in my small hometown (35.000 inhabitants), but the city administration suggested an information stand to which I agreed – under the premises to build up a book fair. It is easier to get in contact with people and the book fair supports the message that our action is knowledge-based. Also, I filled in a formula on the Sea-Bridge homepage when and where the information stand will take place so it could be advertised.

On Saturday morning my mum, my friend Madina and me prepared the stand, placed books and flyers and waited for people to approach us. From far we were visible because we were wearing orange shirts and had placed a banner with “Seebrücke” in front of us. A few people came and wanted to get information on Sea-Bridge. A woman asked about how to become engaged and one man even offered to donate money. A Dutch family was very interested and I took a note to myself that the stand should also include English books.

 

A highlight was the visit of Uwe Nowel from Meppen, a former crew member of the rescue ship “Iuventa”. The Iuventa is currently confiscated by Italian authorities. The Iuventa crew cannot conduct search and rescue missions on the Mediterranean Sea anymore albeit saving 14.000 lives until August 2017. Uwe even gave us a copy of his beautiful painting as a present.

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The rain came twice so we had to pack up all things very quickly. Around 2 pm that day we decided to wrap it up because of bad weather. Meanwhile “only” the weather was crossing our way, the government of Italy is still tragically hindering the Iuventa ship to depart and placing groundless administrative restrictions.

Any information spread on the internet was commented soon by right-wing minded persons. They waited for the world “wild” web to criticise our actions because, on that day, no one approached us directly. However, there were a few persons around who just observed what we were doing which was weird. One man just sat next to us on the bench for a while and when I asked him if he knows about Sea-Bridge, his response was that he is against. At some point, he left. Another young man suspiciously approached us and would not leave for a while without saying a word.

Everyone can become active for Sea Bridge and advocate for refugee rights. Currently, there is an ongoing humanitarian crisis and people are dying in the attempt to access Europe, mostly in the Mediterranean Sea. It is time to act now!

It would have not been possible without the support of my mum and my great friend Madina, so many thanks to you!

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