Berlin, 12 December 2018. Last week brought us news worthy of much celebration at SolidarityNow. On Wednesday 5 December, and after spending 107 days in pre-trial detention, Sara Mardini and Seán Binder were finally released on bail. Sara became internationally known when she and her sister Yusra pulled a boat to safety and saved a dozen refugees in 2015. She and Seán worked together as volunteers with ERCI on Lesvos for two years and were arrested in August under allegations of migrant smuggling, espionage against the Greek State, and money laundering. These charges are completely unfounded and end up criminalizing the very essence of humanitarian assistance, including standard practices used by many civil society actors on the front line of the ‘European refugee crisis’.
SolidarityNow supported the humanitarian volunteers throughout their detention, surrounding their defense with advocacy efforts in Greece and beyond. Through close collaboration with other organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, we worked towards their release from pre-trial detention and we will continue to fight until these baseless charges are dropped.
Upon release, we joined Sara in her celebrations with her family and friends who arrived from various parts of the world, as well as with her legal team. Seán was able to be reunited with his mother, who had rented an apartment on the island of Chios where her son was detained. Both Sara and Seán were freed without geographical restrictions. This means that after too long, they will both be able to get back to their normal lives – Sara to Berlin to continue her studies at Bard College and Seán to Ireland to focus on his academic research.
Today, Sara and Seán were reunited in Berlin and gave a Press Conference, shed light on their case, and vowed to continue promoting the values of humanity and solidarity. SolidarityNow participated in the panel to discuss the broader context in which these wrongful accusations occurred. This is part of a pan-European trend towards criminalizing humanitarian aid. While being used as a deterrent tactic by xenophobic governments, it only means that the journey across the Mediterranean will become even more treacherous for those fleeing war and persecution. As part of the #WelcomingEurope European Citizens’ Initiative, hundreds of civil society organizations and thousands of European citizens are fighting back against these restrictive policies that have created a hostile environment for people who help refugees and migrants.
Since May of this year, SolidarityNow has been spearheading the national efforts of the campaign, which is the first of its kind to address migration. Through this officially monitored tool, 1 million signatures from European citizens have the power to insist the European Commission comply with our joint-demand: end the criminalization of solidarity across Europe.
We have until 15 February to collect as many signatures as possible to be sure that humanity and justice are defended.
- Sign the ECI today to add your voice to our call for a Europe of dignity and solidarity.