Speaking for Ourselves

Editorial: The criminalisation of decency

Editorial: The criminalisation of decency


 Migrant Voice - Editorial: The criminalisation of decency

The criminalisation of acts of solidarity is continuing to spread across Europe, and we urge governments across the continent, including our own, to put a halt to this and to reinstate the values of humanity and decency that Europe claims to stand for.

This week, British man Tom Ciotkowski went on trial in France for contempt and assault after documenting police abuse of migrants and challenging a police officer who was behaving violently towards a fellow volunteer in Calais.

We’ve also heard this week about plans in Italy to fine rescue boats up to 5,500 Euros for every migrant they rescue, and we’ve watched as another 65 migrants are prevented from landing safely in Europe as the search and rescue boat Sea Watch 3 is denied entry.

The act of crossing borders, of migration, has already been criminalised in many situations, with legal routes shut down. Now those who act out of solidarity with migrants are facing the same prospect. Feeding and clothing our fellow human beings is no crime, nor is saving the lives of those at sea – in fact, that’s a duty under international law. The crime is in criminalising those humanitarian and morally driven actions.

And the silence of UK leaders – and of those across Europe who claim to respect human rights – is shameful.

The longer they are silent, the further we travel down the slippery slope, greased by far-right parties across Europe, towards a world where a citizen of any country is criminalised for acts of solidarity and humanity in their own country.

In the meantime, the creeping criminalisation of kindness in France, Italy, Hungary and elsewhere for the purpose of reducing migration puts lives at risk.

Those fleeing desperate or hopeless situations will not stop crossing deserts and seas just because there are no more volunteers to give them a hot meal, and no boats to rescue them when their dinghy starts to sink.

We urge the French authorities to drop all charges against Tom Ciotkowski, the Italian government to drop the threat of fines and allow Sea Watch to dock, and governments across Europe to condemn these short-sighted, anti-migrant policies and to start treating all those who come here with respect, decency and a regard for international humanitarian law.

Rescuing people or helping those in need is not an immigration matter – it’s a matter of basic human decency and we must not allow this to be eroded any further.

TOP IMAGE: Crawford Learmouth/FlickrCC by 2.0

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