Lack of EU action is criminalising solidarity
After the arrest of Carola Rackete, the captain of rescue ship Sea Watch 3, was broadcast worldwide, citizens across Europe quickly raised over €1m for Sea Watch’s legal defence funds and over 250,000 people signed petitions in support of Sea Watch and against the criminalisation of solidarity. But as Carola’s case made the headlines, many more go under the radar.
Well beyond the situation in Italy, the criminalisation of solidarity has spread across Europe and entrapped both NGOs and ordinary citizens, including lifeguards, fire-fighters, doctors, priests, journalists, teachers and volunteers.
Without a stronger commitment from the new European Parliament and Commission, these trends on criminalisation are likely to soar.
An in-depth EU-funded investigation by non-governmental organisations and researchers has identified at least 158 people who have been investigated or formally prosecuted from 2015 to 2019
Despite the 90 percent decrease in irregular arrivals to Europe during the same period, the number of countries and cases criminalising solidarity continues to rise. In the first three months of 2019 alone, 79 cases were under investigation.
The criminalisation of solidarity has claimed victims in Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
All these cases can be related to one EU law—the 2002 Facilitation Directive—which fails to distinguish between human smuggling and humanitarian assistance
Individuals across Europe are being investigated and charged with smuggling, money laundering, membership in a criminalisation organisation, even espionage. Everyday acts of kindness – giving someone food, water, a ride, a phone call, a place to sleep – are being turned into illegal acts
These criminalised citizens are not alone. European civil society organisations are coming together to their defence, from Amnesty International to Caritas Europa, Doctors without Borders, PICUM, Red Cross, Social Platform and the Welcoming Europe campaign.
European citizens have donated millions to life-saving NGO boats, which are now being detained, confiscated and consumed by massive legal fees and fines. So many NGO boats have been blocked that, for months on end, there have been no European rescue boats in the Mediterranean and the death rate has soared.
All people have a right to dignity and all European citizens have the fundamental right to help.