Countless people still try to reach Europe from the north coast of Africa via the Mediterranean Sea and this dangerous journey comes to a deadly end for many. In the summer of 2019 we decided to support the civil sea rescue and all the (volunteer) helpers who work everyday to protect the fugitives.
Together with Solino and fairfood Freiburg, two young companies, which, like fairafric, are committed to a fair value chain in Africa, we have launched the action packages “Support for Lifechangers and Lifesavers”. For each “Sea Rescue Package” sold, 10 € will be donated to Mission Lifeline, a German association that operates civil sea rescue in the Mediterranean Sea. Included were original products like coffee from Ethiopia, cashews from Nigeria and our superfair chocolate made in Ghana.
You supported us diligently and we used the quiet days of the turn of the year to evaluate the action: In total we were able to sell 83 sea rescue packages, which means that we support Mission Lifeline with 830 €!
To find out what the money is being used for, we met Claus-Peter Reisch, the captain of the Mission Lifeline ships “Lifeline” and “Eleonore” for an interview. Since this joint action Claus-Peter is a great supporter of fairafric and always carries a bar of our fairafric chocolate in his luggage during all his travels and events.
In this blog article you will learn how the captain came to the sea rescue and what motivates him for his tireless efforts. You could already read in our last blog article why chocolate makes people happy. This article is about the fact that chocolate can do much more than that – it can fight the causes of escape. How to do that? You can find out in this blog article.
From recreational sailor to sea rescuer
Claus-Peter Reisch was also a sailing enthusiast even before his time as captain of the Lifeline. He made the decision to turn this hobby into a profession in the summer of 2015, when he returned from a private sailing trip from Sardinia to Greece. The route took him past the ports of Calabria, his eyes gazing at the numerous run-down fishing boats in which soaked clothes and children’s toys were left behind. With the debates on the new “Mediterranean refugee route” in mind, which in 2015 were being carried in all the media due to the increasing closure of the Balkan route, he understood that these boats must have been witnesses to a terrible odyssey across the Mediterranean sea.
“And I found it quite cynical that I am here with my boat, hanging out my fishing rod, going snorkeling and having fun, while only a few hundred kilometers further south, dramas are taking place, with people fighting for survival”. Shaken by this idea, he decided to stop watching and become a captain in civil sea rescue. In April 2017 he set off on his first mission. In the meantime, the captain has been involved in the rescue of around 1,000 people and estimates that his first ship, the Lifeline, has brought around 20,000 people safely to a port within two and a half years.
Since his first deployment in the Mediterranean sea much has changed. He tells us that the support provided by European, specially trained naval forces is steadily decreasing and that the European Mediterranean states are also increasingly refusing to help with the reception of the refugees. This has led to the fact that sea rescue operations are currently mainly carried out by volunteers and NGOs, which are dependent on donations and often do not have the necessary resources.
Most shocking of all, however, is the increasing criminalization of sea rescue by European states, which the captain has experienced on several occasions during his recent missions: In the autumn of 2018, the lifeline in the port of Malta was set with the accusation that the ship had been incorrectly registered and Claus-Peter Reisch was sentenced to a fine of €10,000 a few months later. Almost a year later, the second ship of the Lifeline mission, the Eleonore, was also confiscated after the captain had entered a port in Sicily despite a ban. After 8 days at sea with many seasick people on board, he had no other choice. But even confiscated ships cost money.
Instead of backing down, Claus-Peter Reisch says to himself: Now more than ever! And we want to support him and his team. Therefore the 830 € of donations will be used for the maintenance of the ships of Mission Lifeline.
“As long as the causes of escape are not so far under control that people no longer have to take this dangerous route, there is at least a moral obligation not to let these people drown. It’s a clear case.”
Claus-Peter Reisch emphasizes that it is not enough to invest only in education in Africa, because this only postpones the problem by 5 or 10 years.
“The main problem is not that there are too few well-educated workers, but that there are simply no jobs for them. And this is sometimes due to the colonial structures in which there is no further processing of raw materials in Africa, because they still exist today”.
The captain hopes that the politicians will no longer conclude free trade agreements with African countries. “Because free trade with partners who are not on an equal footing cannot work. If we decide that Africa is allowed to import its products duty-free into Europe, that is quite nice. But if we then demand at the same time that we too are allowed to send our products duty-free to African countries, then a higher-value economy will never be able to establish itself there because European companies with their know-how and manufacturing technologies ensure that no technical product can be created in Africa. And if, in addition, the African continent is flooded with our highly subsidized agricultural products, then we are doing exactly what we should not be doing: destroy jobs. So as long as we cannot trade on an equal footing, such free trade agreements are prohibited. On the contrary, I must ensure that jobs are created in Africa. And no Fairtrade seal is sufficient there, which guarantees people a few cents more per kilo, but in my view at least does not generate additional jobs.
There is still a long way to go before the existing structures undergo sustainable change. Until then, the captain will continue to work tirelessly to protect the fugitives. Finally, we asked him what his motivation was after all the setbacks. He replied with a smile that in his life he had already made many journeys to several African countries, where he was in very close contact with the population and had consistently had positive experiences. He was particularly impressed by the hospitality of the African families: “They still share the nothing they have. And that is a bit shameful! You come from this – by their standards – ultra-rich Europe and they give you a place to sleep in their hut so that you don’t have to set up your tent and then they invite you to eat”.
It remains to be emphasized that true joy is known to be most beautiful when it is shared and therefore our fairafric chocolate not only makes us people in Europe happy by its delicious melting, but also the people involved in the production of the chocolate in Africa.
We would like to take this opportunity to say THANK YOU & MEDASE to Claus-Peter Reisch for his active support and his tireless efforts on the high seas as well as to you, because with every purchase of a fairafric chocolate you are doing your best to give the people in Ghana a real perspective.