Over the last 5 years, more than 250 individuals have been put on trial in Europe for their solidarity – they helped people on the move to arrive in cities, handed out food in the cold, saved lives at sea. Some of them, like Captain Carola Rackete or the mayor of Riace, Mimmo Lucano, became famous for their actions.
But this is not about us - privileged Europeans. By far, most people arrested on charges of “aiding illegal immigration” are people on the move themselves. Their crime? Leaving their home in search of a safe place – for themselves, their families, friends and fellows. Their charges are the same as ours. Only, they face lifelong prison sentences and detention, they do not have a lobby and barely any elementary legal protection. Most are on their own as family and friends are either far away or are being deprived of their rights themselves and thus unable to support."We need to talk about Hamza Haddi and Mohamed Haddar, Nour Al-Sameh and all the others whose names we do not know to end this injustice.
„Every day in jail is one day too much. We stand in solidarity with all those arrested under false pretext on Europe’s borders. Migration is not a crime!“
We want you to hear Nour’s story. He is in his mid-twenties when Greek authorities destroy the last glimpse of hope for a life in safety. Nour studied economics in Syria with no intention to leave, until the war ravaged his hometown. Like hundreds of thousands, he escaped, just to find terrible conditions in Turkey. When he reaches Greek waters on July 29, 2015, the small boat he and others are on is suddenly intercepted by armed forces and brought to the island of Periya, where Nour is reportedly handcuffed, blindfolded and beaten up.
The next thing he knows: He is accused of ‘human smuggling and aiding illegal immigration’, sentenced to 315 years and heavy fines. That’s right, 315 years in prison for trying to reach Europe alive. Why? Because Nour speaks English and when the boat got in distress, it was Nour who called for help. In the eyes of the Greek law, this makes him a smuggler. The fact that in turn he got a cheaper fare for his own flight makes him a smuggler acting out of financial interest. In Greek law, that translates into 10+ years for each person that was on the boat.
A small group of friends set up this petition to demand his immediate release. Sign the petition now and show your solidarity with Nour!
„They arrested me for giving out water and blankets on the shoreline. If that’s a crime, we are all criminals.“
Sarah & Seán
After 100 days in Greek detention, they are finally free on bail: Syrian rescue swimmer Sarah Mardini and German rescue diver Seán Binder were arrested in the summer of 2018 after they helped to spot refugee boats in distress on the Greek island of Lesvos. They still face 25 years in jail. There is no evidence for any wrongdoing of volunteers like Sarah, Seán or their companion Nassos. Yet, this is not a guarantee of justice.
Human rights organisations like Amnesty criticise the authorities for strategically using legal prosecution to stop NGOs from operating on the islands. This needs to stop.
„Free Hamza Haddi and all political prisoners!“
Hamza & Mohamed
Meet Hamza and Mohamed, two young Moroccans who left their country searching for protection and better living conditions. Together with two other people, they reached Europe via the Evros River on a tiny makeshift boat. Barely had they set a foot on Greek shores, as policemen arrested them and accused Hamza and Mohamed of aiding the illegal immigration of the two other people on the boat - one of them being Hamza's own brother.
On February 4, 2020 – after more than 7 month in pretrial detention – Hamza Haddi and Mohamed Haddar were each sentenced to 4 years in prison.
Just like Nour's, the case of Hamza and Mohamed is not an isolated one but paradigmatic for Europe's ruthless border regime. With a sentence of 4 years, they absurdly belong to the more 'fortunate ones'. Critical observers have found that the average trial of this kind in Greece lasts only around 30 minutes, leading to an average sentence of 44 years and fines of more than 370,000 Euro. Unlike the big majority, Hamza and Mohamed could count on a support structure. Hamza is a Moroccan political activist who was targeted by the government since the Arab Spring. Pressure from media attention, a proper defense, independent observers and our common statement before the hearing has helped to keep the charges at a minimum. Additional charges of financial benefit and organized crime were eventually dropped.
Most of the accused have no access to support from outside and disappear unknown and unheard of.
Still, Hamza and Mohamed were found guilty of smuggling. This is not what justice looks like. Their lawyer has filed an appeal. Alongside the Hamza & Mohamed support committee we demand that all charges be dropped and their asylum application be accepted. Follow the case on Facebook to stay up to date.
„It’s not the mountains that kill, but the borders.“
Blessing, a young Nigerian woman, drowned in a river in the Alps when she tried to escape from a police raid in 2018. Her life is not the only one lost on the border between Italy and France. Over the years, many people on the move have died in the mountains, especially in winter months. Yet, collective action and concrete acts of solidarity have been increasingly criminalized. Our friends from Briançon stand accused for protesting the militarisation of the borders. They face sentences of up to 10 years in prison and a 750,000 Euro fine per person.
This is a political trial: Because of a spontaneous demonstration against the right wing "Defend Europe Alp Mission", members of the group were convicted – the Prosecutor’s office thus decided to bring charges against pacifist activists while leaving way to far-right groups campaigning against principles like Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité.
Support the Briançon 7 with a donation for their legal costs.
„I am accused of a ‘rebellious act’ when I actually just stood up against a humanitarian injustice I was confronted with.“
The brutality of the border regime takes many forms. 12,000 people are being deported each year from the UK alone. To stop a charter flight scheduled for deportation, a group of 15 activists cut through a fence at Essex airport in March 2017. The Stansted15 were convicted under terror-related charges for their peaceful protest. After the incident, 11 people were granted the right to remain in the UK, a success that shed light on the injustices of the asylum system.
Many deportations happen on regular passenger flights. Swedish student Elin Ersson and Belgian NGO employée Francisca are not the only ones who have resisted the departure of such flights. The incident of december 2019 on an airplane leaving to Ethopia was well documented by phone cameras. Francisca remembers the police entering the airplane soon after she refused to sit down: “They handcuffed me, tied my legs, and dragged me out of the plane. In the van, several policemen forced me on the floor.” Now, she stands accused of a “rebellious act”, awaiting legal consequences.
El Hiblu 3
The crew of the oil tanker El Hiblu is alerted of more than 100 people in distress at sea in March 2019. Once recovered safely and embarked onto the huge vessel, panic arises among the rescuees when they realize the Captain is steering towards Libya. Some threaten to jump overboard in desperate attempts to avoid being taken back to the war torn country they had just escaped from. The crew of the vessel eventually changes course North, complying with international law by bringing the people to a safe port.
Upon reaching Maltese territorial waters, the El Hiblu is stormed by a Special Operations Unit of the Armed Forces of Malta. In the port, three minors aged 15, 16 and 19 at the time, are arrested and charged with several major crimes, including terrorism. After months in prison, a judge agrees to the appeal for a release on bail of the traumatised teenagers. They still risk heavy sentences – for insisting on the right to have rights.
We are proud board members of the “Stiftungsfonds Zivile Seenotrettung” that is paying legal costs for the El Hiblu 3. For more information on the case visit: stiftung-seenotrettung.org