Lion demands more humanitarian radicalism
We meet Lion Kircheis in the small kitchen of the Sea-Watch office in Berlin, a cup of filter coffee in his hands. For others, it is the end of the working day soon. Lion will probably stay longer tonight, as usual. The 23-year-old would not refuse to work overtime, not for a good cause: “When you do something you really support, the motivation is much stronger. I am all in for accomplishing something here.” The political science student is completing his six-month practical semester on a voluntary basis. This is only possible because his parents and grandparents are supporting him in his activism, and because he saved some money before moving to Berlin.
“It is hard for me to come to terms with this indifference in Europe. Just look at the numbers: Last year alone, more than 5,000 people drowned in the Mediterranean Sea. If you laid down their bodies in a row this would make up a length of one and a half miles. This would be a walk of an hour along the dead bodies. How can people be ignorant of this?” Lion suspects that people are too well off in Germany. “The Mediterranean is far away.”
Since his first semester in a small University in Southern Germany, Lion has accompanied refugees to the authorities or grilled home-grown vegetables at parties. Already as a child, the case of sea rescue caught his attention: In 2004, an initiative of German emergency doctors, “Cap-Anamur”, saved 37 people from distress at sea. After this, a few members of the crew were arrested under charges of abetting unlawful entrance. For Lion one question remains central: “How can the rule of law ever let this happen?”
At Sea-Watch, Lion found a way to get active and do something against the tragedy in the Mediterranean himself. In Berlin, he mainly supports the Sea-Watch office in all administrational affairs. He answers queries addressed to the post box firstname.lastname@example.org. This means,he is also the first to experience the negative impacts of a climate of hatred. As right-wing parties are on the rise all over Europe, comments disrespectful of the fight for equal rights and dignity for all reach Lion via mail. He doesn’t care much about racist insults – many others appreciate the work of the Sea-Watch team. Letters from a 90 year-old lady warm Lion’s heart: “Carry on, we need more people like you!”
That’s right – we need people like Lion! His inputs to the association’s advocacy group are as much appreciated as his help for the campaigning team. His political analyses and research are the basis for lectures and press releases, for instance, concerning the human-rights situation in Libya and Tunisia. “What happens when people are sent back to Northern African countries? Are their rights as asylum seekers protetcted?” At the beginning of the year, Lion helped prepare the ship for the new season in the basecamp in Malta. “It never gets boring at Sea-Watch, the tasks are really diverse.”
2017 will be an exciting year in his opinion: civil rescue organizations are repeatedly accused of working with human traffickers. “These allegations are even more absurd if you think of the cooperation between EUNAVFOR Med and the so-called Libyan Coast Guard”, Lion thinks. Moreover, in sight of the elections in Europe, the legal situation for NGOs in the Mediterranean could worsen. This is why Lion wishes for more “backup from civil society”: without the NGOs, human rights would be neglected even more at Europe’s borders. “You can only meet right-wing radicalism with humanitarian radicalism”, Lion says with utter conviction, but with a twinkle in his eye. After finishing his B.A. degree, he wants to return to Berlin – and to the ship, to document the situation himself with his camera.