The Council of the European Union has proposed legislation that could criminalise volunteers trying to help refugees arriving into Europe.
As revealed by the civil liberties group Statewatch, the Draft Council conclusions on migrant smuggling equates the definition of migrant ‘smuggling’ with ‘trafficking’. This could lead to the arrest or marginalisation of NGOs, volunteers or local people who are endeavouring to help struggling people fleeing war-torn countries.
Tony Bunyan, the director of Statewatch, said:
The Council proposals would criminalise NGOs, local people and volunteers who have worked heroically to welcome refugees when the EU institutions did nothing, while other plans would require them to “register” with the police and work within state structures. In a humane and caring EU it should not be necessary to “register” to offer help and care to people who have suffered so much already.
Indeed, the following video – showing the devastation in the Syrian city of Homs – should stop dead in the tracks anyone who thinks refugees do not desperately need our help.
The above video shows the widespread destruction of what was once Syria’s third largest city and home to 650,000 people. Here’s what it used to look like:
Yet, the EU is proposing to criminalise people trying to help those who’ve had their lives turned upside-down by war.
A law professor at the University of Essex, Steve Peers, said:
This document fails to acknowledge the crucial role played by Greek islanders and volunteers in rescuing and caring for migrants who cross the Mediterranean in unsafe vessels. The EU should amend its anti-smuggling laws as soon as possible to confirm that no-one giving such vital humanitarian assistance should ever be penalised for it.
Greek anti-trafficking legislation already applies to both volunteers and traffickers alike. In mid-January, volunteers and members of NGOs were arrested for reining in plastic dinghies carrying desperate refugees.
Later in the same month, 31 refugees drowned in the Aegean Sea because of ‘anti-smuggling’ laws. Rescuers were restricted from helping the refugees until the ship had left Turkish waters.
Governments should be doing much more themselves to solve such a humanitarian crisis, aside from the voluntary rescue missions carried out independently by their citizens. Take, for example, Denmark, who just passed legislation allowing the police to seize refugee’s valuables and money. Rather than helping people unjustly dealt the card of war, Denmark is deciding to rob them for the little they have left.
Role reversal. Imagine barely escaping a war-torn London, erupting in untold violence that took the lives of people you know, which destroyed your home and community, only to have your last tenner robbed by Danish police officers.
States are viewing refugees, not as humans needing help, but as inconveniences to be managed.
It’s a topsy-turvy world when, instead of being assisted by the government, solidarity-motivated individuals trying to save human lives are treated as criminals. Instead of at the very least aiding volunteers, the EU is proposing to criminalise them for trying to help.
–Support the Canary for more compassionate journalism.
–Write to your MP to ask why the government is not doing more to help.
Featured image via Maximilian.
We need your help to keep speaking the truth
Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.
Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.
We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.
In return, you get:
* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop
Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.
With your help we can continue:
* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do
We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?