About 100 NGOs, eighteen of them Belgian, on Friday urged European authorities to stop criminalising solidarity with migrants and refugees.
A total of 104 persons in 11 countries including Belgium were the target of legal proceedings for helping refugees and migrants, the 102 NGOs said in a statement, citing a report by the ReSOMA Platform, which links researchers, NGOs and local authorities.
The persons charged include volunteers, activists, members of NGOs, rescue vessel crew members, migrants’ relatives, journalists, mayors and priests.
The ReSOMA report identified at least 49 cases of investigations or criminal proceedings targeting 158 persons.
One of the most prominent cases mentioned in the document is that of the captain of the Sea Watch 3 humanitarian vessel, Carola Rackete, who was released from custody in Italy, but still faces charges for making a forced landing at Lampedusa to land migrants saved in the Mediterranean.
The report also noted the trial of four Belgians, two of them journalists, for sheltering migrants. The four were acquitted in December last but the Office of the Public Prosecutor has appealed. That case also involves eight migrants convicted of participation in a criminal organisation for helping other migrants to board U.K.-bound trucks on Belgian highway lay-bys.
These cases show how people are punished for saving the lives of migrants or providing humanitarian assistance that member States either do not wish to provide or cannot provide, despite their obligation to do so under international and EU law, the NGOs said.