Intervention of the GCR for the decriminalization of solidarity

 

Press Release

The Greek Council for Refugees (GCR) welcomes the vote of the amendment of Article 30 of Law 4251/2014, which takes place in the Parliament today, and calls for its immediate application. To this end, GCR has intervened before the competent ministries and authorities, requesting to put an end to the criminal prosecution of citizens, who assist newly-arrived refugees, in a spirit of solidarity and humanity.

 

This amendment is extremely important, since under the provision of the current law, ordinary citizens who attempt to compensate state’s shortcomings, end up being prosecuted with criminal charges. Due to the morphology of many Greek islands, people disembarking on their shores, exhausted, wet and often injured, are forced to walk long distances, of up to 60km, without water, under the hot sun of the summer. They are walking on country roads, with low visibility, towards the capital of the island, where administrative authorities are located and where newcomers can be registered. It is important to note that a large number of these people are minors (even infants), pregnant women, elders and ill persons.

Unfortunately, this situation constitutes the daily reality for islands such as Lesvos. The responsibility of rescue of these people lies primarily on local authorities, police and coast guards, who are yet unable to cope with the daily massive arrivals.

Faced with this situation and driven by humanitarian motives, caring and responsible citizens have undertaken to transport newcomers – and particularly the most vulnerable among them – at their own expense to the capital of the island. However, even so there are obstacles, as the aforementioned legal provision states that severe penalties may be imposed for transporting undocumented persons. As a matter of fact, there have been arrests and prosecutions in several cases. The latest ones were brought to our attention as recently as the 4th and 5th of July, 2015.

It is evident that the enforcement of this law should aim at tackling the exploitation of refugees and migrants, instead of arresting our fellow citizens, who, in the face of the difficult situation we are all going through, have decided to give a helping hand to those who are less fortunate.

GCR welcomes the vote of the amendment of Law 4251/2014, which decriminalizes supportive actions of citizens that facilitate the mobility of newly arrived refugees. Furthermore, we urge the Greek state to proceed to the proper and immediate implementation of the amendment, according to the rules of good governance and along the spirit of Directive 2002/90/EC, which calls not to impose sanctions for similar actions when they aim to provide humanitarian assistance. Thus, future criminal prosecutions of those, who act to supplement the inadequate response of the state to its own responsibilities, can be avoided. 

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