What are you doing these days?
As an activist my main interest is biodiversity and nature conservation, and how we can achieve changes of social power structures which cause both ecological and social destruction. In the last 2 years I have been part of campaigns for centering justice and human rights within nature conservation, particularly focussing on rights of Indigenous Peoples and local communities. Also, I participated in autonomous forest occupation in Dannenröder Wald and a land occupation against coal mining in Lützerath, because I believe that direct action is necessary to achieve social change. Because I love Antarctica I returned there for the 8th time in 2020 with a Greenpeace campaign. Later, together with the Bob Brown foundation I successfully campaigned against a huge airport project in Antarctica proposed by the Australian Antarctic Division. In addition, I helped to start up a rights of nature Declaration for Antarctica. Apart from ecological issues, I am also part of the #AbolishFrontex network which aims to abolish the failed European border agency and demands freedom of movement. Occasionally I write or speak in public about the urgency and need for civil society to engage in struggles of social and environmental justice.
I would like to contact you for an interview, event etc.
Thank you for considering to invite me. I am not particularly keen to make public appearances as I rather work on practical projects. However, I do think it is very necessary to speak about the connection of social justice and the urgent ecological crises we are facing, as well as the need for civil society to engage in justice struggles and to use direct action and civil disobedience, if people can safely do so. Before contacting me, please consider if you might not rather invite a person who is less publicly visible and benefits more from having a platform to make their voice heard.
If your interest is sea rescue or migration I will always pass on your request to people who are experts due to their own experience and more up-to-date on the present situation and political developments.
Borderline Europe is a great place to get started if you want to know more about the criminalisation of people on the move and how you can support them helping to cover legal defence costs.
If you are specifically interested in the criminalisation of those who act in solidarity with people on the move please support Iuventa Crew whose trial is starting in May 2022 in Italy.
Your effort to highlight and support those affected by racist border structures and criminalisation is much appreciated and of great importance.
Why do you not speak about sea rescue / migrant solidarity?
Please do not send me any invites on these topics – I will pass these on to the people who are more knowledgeable on these issues and want a platform to speak out for themselves.
First of all, I disagree with how the media pushes sea rescue activists into the limelight of the public debate on migration. Many people who are on the move or live in Europe are looking for platforms to speak out and share their experience and expertise. It should not be sea rescue activists who get this media attention, not least because the risk of criminalisation is massively higher for migrants and refugees than for activists who hold EU passports.
I also personally dislike how media frames some persons as celebrities, though they essentially just do the same (or less) compared to many others who do not get any – or less – media attention. The focus on individuals can also distract attention from the actual political issues and overshadows the fact that most of these individuals do not achieve much by themselves but act in groups and collectives.
In the case of my arrest in 2019, media painted the picture of a fairly 2-dimensional “sea rescue hero” but this media character doesn’t actually reflect reality. While I have taken part in sea rescue occasionally, I have never been very engaged in these projects and also have turned down permanent employment offers. My focus has mostly been on ecological problems and their links to social injustice.
Many of the requests I receive today are still targeted at this imaginary character but while I certainly do have an opinion on migration policy, I do not want to be a public spokesperson for an issue that many other people are better placed to speak about due to their long-term commitment, personal experience and/or enthusiasm for engaging in this struggle.
I would like to know more about the 2019 rescue mission.
There are a lot of interviews in different languages online as well as a documentary about the rescue mission called „Seawatch3“. This documentary is freely available online with subtitles.
In November 2019 we also published a book on the sea rescue mission, linking it to social and ecological justice struggles. This book was translated into 8 languages and you can find the titles on the publication page, including a link to the free English version. All proceeds from the book were given to a legal support fund for people on the move, managed by Borderline-Europe e.V.
What is your legal situation in Italy after the arrest in 2019?
In January 2020 the Italian Supreme Court confirmed the decision of the court in Agrigento, stating that I should never have been arrested. The two pending investigations were closed in May 2021 and December 2021, respectively. The investigations have at no point restricted my freedom to travel or live anywhere in the world, including in Italy. As a final step, former Interior Minister Matteo Salvini now faces trial for defamation.
What is your engagement with sea rescue, in particular with Sea-Watch e.V.?
Between 2016-2019 I volunteered for around 6 months at sea and in port for various sea rescue organisations and another 2 months for sea rescue aircraft. At times, I also volunteered doing logistical back-office work. I have never been a member or an employee of Sea-Watch (nor any other sea rescue organisation) and have not publicly spoken for Sea-Watch since 2019.
Are you going to participate in sea rescue in the future?
This is quite unlikely. I remain on the emergency contact list of various sea rescue organisations but I do not plan going on any missions – nor did I plan to go on the mission in June 2019 for which I was contacted with 3 days notice. Currently, the main obstacle to sea rescue is not the lack of maritime professionals but the political blockade of rescue vessels.
Where are you living?
Officially, I am registered in Germany but for more than 10 years I have not actually lived there. On average, I spent less than 4 weeks each year in Germany. Very generally, I avoid spending time in Central or Western Europe. I think everyone should be able to choose freely where they want to live.