Sunday, February 28, 2016

Criminalizing the Provisions of Basic Human Rights in Europe

Can you imagine to cross the Mediterranean,
standing with 50 others in such a boat? 

Can you imagine your land is in war, your schools, hospitals, offices and your own house is bombed, several family members are killed?  After five years of war, when there is no end of death and no survival - what would you do?  Flee or patiently await certain death?  I assume 99% would flee... 
And exactly this happens in Syria and other countries.  War refugees cannot just board a plane.  They have to find a way to get out of the country, maybe following friends or family who are already safe in another European country.  As they do not have a car, and have to cross the Mediterranean Sea, they give their lives - and their money - into the hands of smugglers who promise them a boat journey to the next European island.  More than 3,000 war refugees drowned in the last year when unsafe and overcrowded boats capsized.

Basic Humanity
For a long time volunteers helped those who arrived alive at the shores - while governments and even the Red Cross were merely absent.  In Greece in 2015, and especially in the North Aegean, we saw an amazing wave of solidarity among Greek citizens and foreigners working together to help to manage the huge wave of refugees arriving on the shores.  In recent days in the Greek islands we are seeing things change as paranoia emerges along with cries to “control” the volunteers and the NGOs.

Criminalization of Volunteers

Green European Journal reports: "Fishermen who rescue refugees from the sea and certain death can be charged with aiding illegal immigration. Volunteers who cook in public spaces can be charged for not having secured public health permits.

Volunteer doctors can be charged with working in Greece without having their licenses to be reviewed and approved by the national government. Volunteers who pitch tents in public spaces can be charged with violating laws forbidding camping in public spaces.  Volunteers who help to change the wet clothes of shivering children might be charged with molesting them.

Photographers could be charged with violating military space on the coastlines.  Those who donate food, clothing, and other supplies could be charged for not providing receipts.  And finally, volunteers choosing to work in small groups without large donor bases, high overhead, bank accounts, and tax numbers can be prohibited from offering to help."  

It is just insane...
."Instead of looking for ways to deter the volunteers, the Greek and European Union authorities ought to consider the illegality of their own activities.  They are required by European law to offer asylum to refugees of war.  Is it ethical to close the Schengen borders?  Why blame the volunteers or to imagine that the refugees will stop coming if there are no volunteers to meet them."


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