|Londra, 19 Maggio, 2019 – Centinaia gli arresti, indagati o minacciati di reclusione o ammenda a causa di leggi che ‘criminalizzano la solidarietà’ verso migranti negli ultimi quattro anni – con un’impennata negli ultimi 18 mesi.
Nuove statistiche compilate da openDemocracy, il sito web di notizie londinese, rivela come i cittadini in tutta Europa siano stati arrestati per aver dato cibo, riparo, trasporti o compiuto altri “atti di fondamentali di umanità” a beneficio di migranti.
La maggiorparte dei casi in Italia, Greecia, Francia, il Regno Unito, Spagna, Germania e Danimarca
Italia e Francia sono i due paesi con il maggior numero di casi, soprattutto con l’insediamento al potere a livello regionale e nazionale di partiti sovranisti. Sostenitori dei diritti umani temono che gli arresti siano destinati ad aumentare ulteriormente in tutto il continente.
openDemocracy ha identificato più di 200 persone arrestate, investigate o minacciate di detenzione o ammenda dalle autorità in 14 paesi europei – Belgio, Croazia, Danimarca, Francia, Germania, Grecia, Islanda, Italia, Malta, Norvegia, Spagna, Svezia, Svizzera e il Regno Unito – dal 2015, con il maggior numero dei casi in Italia e Francia.
L’analisi di openDemocracy rivela il costo umano di queste politiche: si tratta dell’elenco più lungo mai compilato fino ad oggi – anche se gli esperti avvertono che il numero reale potrebbe essere molto più alto.
Fra i casi di maggiore rilievo:
- Don Mussie Zerai, un sacerdote e candidato al premio Nobel, arrestato in Italia nell’agosto 2017 per il salvataggio dei migranti dall’annegamento in mare, e del pompiere spagnolo Miguel Roldan, che ora affronta 20 anni in carcere in Italia per aver contribuito a salvare rifugiati che stavano annegamento nel Mediterraneo.
- Una dozzina di sacerdoti, tra cui un pastore evangelico, arrestati nel mezzo di una funzione liturgica in Chiesa nelle montagne svizzere
- Squadre di primo intervento, tra cui un vigile del fuoco spagnolo che rischia fino a 30 anni di carcere per il salvataggio dei migranti dall’annegamento in mare in Grecia.
- In Francia diversi contadini e abitanti di piccoli paesi villaggi al confine con l’Italia, tra cui un olivicoltore arrestato per aver fornito cibo e riparo ai migranti.
- Sempre in Francia: Volontari cattolici, tra cui un membro del Secours Catholique, arrestato per l’installazione di docce portatili a Calais per immigrati e senzatetto.
- In Danimarca, donne anziane, compresa una 70enne nonna danese che è stata condannata e multata per aver offerto un passaggio in macchina ad una famiglia con bambini piccoli.
- Sempre in Danimarca, giornalisti e scrittori, tra cui un autore per bambini, con il marito, per aver invitato immigrati a casa per un caffè e biscotti.
Mary Fitzgerald, Direttore di openDemocracy, ha detto: “In tutta Europa, donne anziane, sacerdoti, calciatori e i vigili del fuoco sono criminalizzati per atti di umanità. E molto probabilmente si tratta della punta di un iceberg, con casi ancora da identificare.”
” Abbiamo urgente bisogno di politiche più umane e sensibili in materia di migrazione. E noi dovremmo celebrare piuttosto che arrestare coloro che aiutano altri esseri umani.”
Dunja Mijatović, Commissario per i Diritti Umani del Consiglio d’Europa, ha dichiarato: “Purtroppo, in molti paesi europei vediamo calpestate norme consolidate sui diritti umani e anche sui valori e principi ad essi sottesi.
È preoccupante vedere aumentare la pressione e le restrizioni sul lavoro di individui e organizzazioni non governative che assistono i migranti, richiedenti asilo e rifugiati in Europa. Si trovano ad affrontare oneri amministrativi destinati a rendere il loro lavoro impossibile, oltre alla stigmatizzazione da una retorica politica fuorviante e ostile, e ancor più minacce penali.
Invece di perseguitare coloro che aiutano i migranti ad avere una vita più dignitosa, gli Stati membri del Consiglio d’Europa dovrebbero impegnarsi maggiormente nell’attuazione delle norme che hanno concordato e mettere i diritti umani e il principio della compartecipazione del centro delle loro politiche di migrazione e asilo.
È giunto il momento che i leader politici degli Stati membri rinnovino l’impegno a rispettare i diritti umani, la legge, e i valori europei. Questo è sia un dovere giuridico che morale”.
Elderly women, firefighters and priests among hundreds of Europeans arrested for ‘solidarity’ with migrants, major new openDemocracy research reveals
Hundreds of Europeans have been arrested, investigated, or threatened with prison or fines under laws ‘criminalising solidarity’ with migrants over the past five years – with these cases rising sharply in the last 18 months.
A new dataset compiled by openDemocracy, the London-based global news website, reveals how citizens across Europe have been arrested for providing food, shelter and transport and other “basic acts of human kindness” to migrants.
The two countries with the highest number of cases, Italy and France, have far-right parties in power at the national and regional levels, respectively.
Human rights advocates warn that if far-right parties make big gains in next week’s European elections – where migration is a central battleground issue – arrest numbers are likely to rise still further across the continent.
openDemocracy has identified more than 250 people arrested, investigated, or threatened with prison or fines by authorities across 14 European countries – Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Malta, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK – since 2015.
The vast majority of these cases took place in just 7 European countries: Italy, Greece, France, the UK, Spain, Germany and Denmark.
openDemocracy’s analysis reveals the human cost of these policies for a range of different people. It is the longest list ever compiled of these cases across borders to date – although experts warn that the true number could be much higher.
Headline cases include:
- About half a dozen priests, including an evangelical pastor who was arrested in the middle of a church service in the Swiss mountains
- First-responders, including a Spanish firefighter who faces up to 30 years in prison for rescuing migrants from drowning at sea in Greece
- Several rural farmers and villagers, including a French olive grower arrested for feeding and sheltering migrants on the border of Italy
- Elderly women, including a 70-year old Danish grandmother who was convicted and fined for offering a lift to a family with small children
- Journalists and writers, including a children’s author and her husband who invited migrants to their home for coffee and biscuits in Denmark
- Catholic volunteers, including a member of Secours Catholique, arrested for installing portable showers in Calais for homeless migrants
Countries across Europe have criminalised acts that facilitate illegal immigration – including directly or indirectly assisting entry, movement or settlement in a country without valid immigration papers, through to providing accomodation, food, shelter and assistance with transport. In some cases, these laws have existed for years (often to prevent human smuggling), but are now being applied with increasing severity under far right leaders.
In addition to arrests, there are numerous cases of other police and state sanctions against people for such acts of solidarity – including ‘expulsion orders’ from specific municipalities in Italy; search and seizures; and other investigations.
openDemocracy is working with journalists across Europe to document these cases, and, with the support of dozens of civil society groups, has now compiled an extensive pan-European list.
Mary Fitzgerald, Editor in Chief of openDemocracy, said: “Across Europe, elderly women, priests, footballers and firefighters are being criminalised for basic acts of human kindness. And it’s very likely the tip of the iceberg, with more cases yet to be identified.”
“It’s particularly worrying on the eve of the European elections, where far-right parties want to force through even more draconian immigration laws and deterrents. We urgently need more humane and sensible policies on migration. And we should be celebrating rather than arresting those who help other human beings.”
Dunja Mijatović, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, said:
“It is troubling to see the increasing pressure and restrictions that States put on the work of individuals and NGOs assisting migrants, asylum seekers and refugees in Europe. They face administrative burdens intended to make their work impossible, stigmatisation by misleading and hostile political rhetoric, and even criminal prosecution.
Instead of clamping down on those who help migrants live a more dignified life, Council of Europe member states should become more serious in implementing the standards they agreed to and finally put human rights and the principle of responsibility sharing at the centre of their migration and asylum policies.
It is high time that political leaders across member states recommit with human rights, the rule of law and European values. This is both a legal and a moral duty.”
- More than 50 of the cases in our dataset are in France
- Many of the reported cases of arrests have fallen under the specific délit de solidarité or “Crime of Solidarity” (Article L622–1 of French immigration law), carrying a sentence of up to five years in prison. This law was amended in January 2013 and, despite its use against people who act for humanitarian reasons being declared unconstitutional in 2018, is it still being heavily applied in Calais which Marine Le Pen, leader of the Front National far-right party, represents in the National Assembly.
- In April 2016, Fernand Bosson, former mayor of the commune of Onnion was arrested for housing a family from Kosovo after their asylum application was dismissed.
- In March 2018, Benoit Duclois, a French mountain guide was charged with aiding and abetting illegal immigration, risking up to 5 years in prison, after he was ‘caught’ assisting a pregnant Nigerian migrant across the Italian-French border on foot in the snow.
- Tom Ciotkowski, a British volunteer distributing food to refugees in Calais, is facing up to 5 years in prison and up to €7,500 in fines; charged with contempt and assault while documenting police abuse against refugees. (Trial this week in France – to be updated).
- A British ex-soldier, Rob Lawrie, was arrested at the French border for smuggling, and threatened with a five-year prison sentence for trying to reunite a 4-year-old in the Calais refugee camp with her family in Leeds.
- More than a quarter of the cases in our dataset are in Italy
- Italian authorities have arrested citizens suspected of helping migrants across borders under the 1998 Italian Legislative Decree designed to criminalise human trafficking.
- Don Mussie Zerai, a priest and Nobel prize nominee, was put under investigation for facilitating illegal immigration after rescuing migrants from drowning at sea. Spanish firefighter Miguel Roldan now also faces 20 years in prison in Italy for helping to rescue drowning refugees in the Mediterranean.
- About 50 of the cases in our dataset are in Greece
- Citizens in Greece who rescue migrants in the Mediterranean have been prosecuted under the 2014 Immigration and Social Inclusion law, designed to punish traffickers who seek to make money from migrants.
- A German pensioner couple who owned a private boat and allowed migrants to come on board were taken to court in Greece and convicted in 2017 for smuggling and given 16.5 years each, later reduced on appeal to 3.5 years.
- Three professional firefighters and two volunteers who tried to save lives off the coast of Greece were charged with “attempted smuggling” of people into the country.
- In January 2016, a Spanish volunteer was charged with espionage for taking a photo of a Frontex (European border control) boat.
- More than a dozen people in our dataset were arrested in the UK
- Tom Ciotkowski, a British volunteer distributing food to refugees in Calais, France, facing up to 5 years in prison and up to €7,500 in fines; charged with contempt and assault while documenting police abuse against refugees. (Trial this week in France – to be updated).
- A British ex-soldier, Rob Lawrie, was arrested at the French border for smuggling, and threatened with a five-year prison sentence for trying to reunite a 4-year-old in the Calais refugee camp, in France, with her family in Leeds.
- A dozen people in our dataset were arrested in Belgium
- Myriam Berghe, a freelance reporter, and Anouk Van Gestel, editor in chief of Marie-Claire Belgium, were accused of the crime of human trafficking after assisting refugees.
- About a dozen people in our dataset were arrested, investigated, or charged in Germany.
- Five pastors in Rhineland-Palatinate granted sanctuary to several refugees from Sudan. In January 2019, their parishes were searched and they’ve been charged with “Aid to Illegal Residence”.
- A German pensioner couple who owned a private boat and allowed migrants to come on board were taken to court in Greece and convicted in 2017 for smuggling and given 16.5 years each. On appeal, the wife was released and husband had his sentence reduced to 3.5 years.
- Around a dozen people in our dataset were arrested, charged, detained or investigated in Spain.
- Spanish firefighter Miguel Roldan now also faces 20 years in prison in Italy for helping to rescue drowning refugees in the Mediterranean.
- In January 2016, a Spanish volunteer was charged in Greece with espionage for taking a photo of a Frontex (European border control) boat.