Three activists who have been involved in the search and rescue of refugees are facing trial in Greece on January 10th. Memet Uludağ explains why this is happening and why we should support them.
In 2000 there were 12 million refugees and 5.9 million internally displaced people (IDP) globally . By 2010, while the number of externally displaced refugees stood static, the number of IDP’s had risen to 14 million. By 2020, there were 20 million refugees and nearly 50 million IDP’s. Today the global forced displacement has reached more than 105 million, with 53 million IDP’s, 33 million refugees, 5 million asylum seekers and another 5 million people in need of international protection.
For some people, for millions in fact, life couldn’t get any harsher. Crossing borders has been the only way to stay alive.
The global refugee and IDP numbers don’t show any signs of easing, because the world we live in is not easing. After more than four hundred years of capitalism, imperialist wars continue. Arms deals are at their highest. Global inequality deepens and widens. Basic forms of democracy and human rights are a luxury for millions of people. Mad men rule some parts of this world. In other parts, those ruling us have no interest in the wellbeing of ordinary decent people. Furthermore, with the increasingly frequent and deadly weather events, more people face the risk of becoming displaced as climate refugees.
Humanity is facing multiple crises, all made by those ruling us.
But, it is not just a miserable, ugly world, it is one that is beautiful, too – if we make it beautiful.
Humanity On Trial
The trial of Seán Binder, Nassos Karakitsos and Sarah Mardini will begin on Jan 10th in Lesvos. Seán, Nassos and Sarah are only 3 people that in their own ways tried to make this world beautiful.
Their price for their struggle is an ugly form of injustice as an extension of European border barbarism.
You may have seen the Netflix movie ‘The Swimmers’ telling the story of Sarah Mardini. Seán Binder features on the TG4 documentary series Finné.
Along with others, the three were humanitarian volunteers involved in search and rescue work of refugees facing death at sea.
They joined a Greek rescue organisation which helped thousands of asylum seekers fleeing conflict. Despite fulfilling their legal duty to help those in distress at sea they were charged with various crimes, such as espionage and facilitating illegal entry – human trafficking. They have already spent 108 days in pre-trial detention and face 25 years behind bars if convicted.
Their trial will begin on January 10th in the Greek island of Lesbos.
Human Rights Watch have described these baseless charges as the ‘criminalization of saving lives’. The charges against Sarah, Seán and Nassos are serious and increasingly common.
“The Greek Minister of Migration has used these baseless accusations as a justification for imposing new laws that severely restrict the work and rights of organisations supporting refugees in Greece.” – Free Humanitarians.
At a show trial the German captain, Pia Klemp was accused of aiding illegal immigration after she saved people from drowning in the Mediterranean.
Captain Carola Rackete, who rescued 42 migrants, faced the prospect of a long trial for defying Italy’s ban on rescue ships.
Human rights activists always faced prosecution for their work but now, Europe, the so-called ‘champion of human rights and democracy’, is targeting activists while turning their borders to dead zones.
The trial is not only a punishment for the three activists but a message to all of us concerned about human and refugee rights: It is aimed to inject fear in us and disable activism that exposes the inhumane refugee policies and border barbarism.
Pushbacks and Border Barbarism
What should be on trial are the refugee pushbacks in the Mediterranean and the Aegean Sea and the policies of Frontex.
Being a refugee, seeking asylum, indeed, crossing borders is not a crime. ‘Illegal immigration’ is a construct to criminalize refugees and activists.
This is exactly what the trial in Lesbos is about. Please support the campaign to #DropTheCharges. You can start with signing the petition below.
What Seán, Nassos and Sarah did was to stop people from drowning. We in Ireland can help those who escaped death at the borders and arrived in this country by showing our solidarity and support. By standing up the racism and the far-right hate. Arguably, the best form of international solidarity is the actual struggle at home, dealing with complexities in the real, trying to win the hearts and minds of many and building an anti-racist campaign.