Statewatch, a European civil liberties watchdog, has released confidential documents that reveal that the European Union is drawing up plans to criminalize charities and volunteers who help refugees arriving on Greek islands.
It is yet another desperate attempt by European leaders who have tried— and failed— to create and implement a comprehensive and unified plan amongst its fractious members to handle almost 1 million refugees who have arrived over the past year.
The documents revealed that EU interior ministers who met in Amsterdam on January 27, 2016 want to criminalize as “smugglers” charities, local people, volunteers and scores of international humanitarians who have traveled to Greece to help pull drowning refugees from the sea and feed and offer dry clothes as they land on Greek islands.
Instead, the Council wants to create a state-run mechanism that forces people to register and work under EU-sanctioned rescue and relief plans.
Tony Bunyan, Statewatch Director, stated that “The (European) Council proposals would criminalise NGOs, local people and volunteers who have worked heroically to welcome refugees when the EU institutions did nothing, while other plans would incorporate those who “register” with the police to work under state structures. In a humane and caring EU it should not be necessary to “register” to offer help and care to people who have suffered so much already.”
The story was first broken by The Times in London and all corresponding documents, including the leaked European Commission report, have been placed on Statewatch’s website. Statewatch’s full report is here.
Eric Kempson, a British exat who’s been living on Lesvos for years and has helped, together with his wife and daughter, thousands of refugees who are landing just feet from his home, responded angrily to the news.
“If we were helping during the holocaust then we would be classed as the resistance and the EU would be the Nazis. They are following the logic of fascism by telling us to let people drown on our doorstep and the way Greece is being victimized in all this is disgusting. We are not going to stop helping. We will keep on going and we need the world’s help to do it. They are not going to stop us acting with humanity,” Kempson said via his Facebook page.
A petition has already been started by an activist in London criticizing the proposed move by the European Council and encouraging European leaders to scrap the plans to criminalize volunteer work on Greece’s islands.