human development, social justice and sustainable social systems

Our World Refugee Day

Projection against criminalisation of solidarity

On the World Refugee Day, June 20, Caritas Europa called for the end of the criminalisation of solidarity with migrants with a large projection on the InfoStation building of the European Parliament.

The portraits of three citizens who have been criminalised for their volunteering or humanitarian actions to help migrants in distress were projected on the building for a few hours.

Showing humanity and care to migrants and refugees in deep distress or vulnerable situations should be lauded instead of criminalised,” said Maria Nyman, Secretary General of Caritas Europa in statement earlier in the day. Caritas Europa also signed the joint statement with the Research Social Platform on Migration and Asylum (ReSOMA).

The Caritas Europa network has increasingly witnessed a trend to stigmatise and criminalise humanitarian assistance that organisations and volunteers have provided to migrants in distress. A recent position paper by our Advocacy Officer Leila Bodeux highlights cases of this trend and makes recommendations to policy-makers.

This action was part of Caritas’ MIND project.

The faces in the projection

Covering most of the façade of the EP building were the faces of Pia Klemp, Sarah Mardini and Seán Binder.

Klemp, a 35-years-old German, was the capitan of the Iuventa, a vessel of the NGO Sea Watch. In the summer of 2017, the Iuventa was seized by Italian authorities for saving distressed vessels transporting migrants. The Iuventa used to work closely with the Italian marine coordination centre for search and rescue to save distressed vessels and pass them on to European military ships or the Italian coastguard. Klemp and her crew are facing charges for aiding and abetting illegal immigration to Italy. They could face up to 20 years in prison and high fines.

Sarah Mardini is a Syrian living in Germany and Seán Binder is a German living in Ireland. They were both volunteering with the Emergency Response Centre International (ERCI) in Lesbos, Greece.

Mardini, 23, and her Olympic sister got media attention back in 2015 when they fled Syria in a dinghy and saved the people on board by swimming the dinghy to the shores. She went to Lesbos to volunteer during a brake from her studies in economics and social sciences. Binder, 25, was volunteering after he had recently finished his MA in International Relations.

Mardini and Binder were arrested in the summer of 2018 and spent 106 days in pre-trial detention. They were both accused of facilitating people-smuggling through membership of a criminal organisation. Charges also include espionage and money laundering. They were released on bail in December 2018. They are currently awaiting their trial and could be faced with 25 years in prison if convicted.