“We were called criminals for handing out blankets at the shoreline. If this is illegal, then we are all criminals" – Sarah Mardini.
The Mediterranean is the deadliest sea in the world. Over 19,300 people have lost their lives since 2014. Tonight, many asylum seekers will sleep among the rocks where they first arrived, with no permission to enter camps and with no access to even basic health care.
Especially in these times of COVID-19, we must support those who are most vulnerable and neglected.
Unfortunately, we have seen the exact opposite happen.
Sarah, Nassos and I volunteered for a Greek NGO that provided the only medical, rescue and interpretation services at the frontline of the southern Lesvos shore, one of the primary shorelines of this crisis. Despite working shoulder to shoulder with Lesvian locals, with the coast guard and police, we were arrested and spent 108 days in prison.
We still face 25 years imprisonment – for what Human Rights Watch said was the “criminalisation of saving lives”. This is why today, no more search and rescue NGOs carry out proactive operations on the southern shore of Lesvos, because they are afraid of being arrested for their life saving work, just like us.
But everyone has the right to life. Saving lives is not a crime.
Your donation will allow us to protect human rights in the courts. Legal fees alone are estimated at 30,000 Euro. Our lawyers are very clear: “This case is emblematic of a Europe-wide problem, if unchallenged, we all stand to lose fundamental rights”. We need help to cover the costly bureaucratic mechanisms the prosecution uses to slow our work. Together we can also continue campaigning to make sure that saving lives is no longer politicised. We need your donation to win this fight!
Once we are acquitted, and if we have remaining funds, we will be able to use them to pursue justice at the EU and national level, making sure laws are not used to stifle our humanitarian duty.
This is not just about us. Our trial will show whether Europe is able to live up to its self-declared values. During this pandemic, we all came to understand what it means to be healthy and safe. Together, we can challenge the suppression of human rights at Europe's borders. Your donation is a message to the authorities: saving lives is not a crime, it's not heroic, it's just necessary.