EU plans to class volunteers who rescue drowning Syrian refugees as "traffickers"

[Read the post]


It’s becoming ever harder for me to proudly say I’m European. Europe is more and more being run by far-right extremists and racist (Trumpian) populists. Rather than trying to solve the refugee problem, they fight it. Pushing people away and putting them in even more danger than they already are. All in the name of “fighting terrorism”.


How USA of them.


Wouldn’t such a law violate international law for human rights? Regardless of what the law was, if i happened to be on the shore, or on a boat and i saw someone drowning i would not be able to live with myself if i stood idly by and left them die. It’s monstrous to suggest we should do nothing.


No. talks of “plans to criminalize rescue operations”, and links to two articles. One article reports that rescue operations that cross a border are already illegal according to international law (Rescuing someone from Turkish waters and then taking them to Greece is people smuggling. If Turkey prohibits European volunteers from bringing people rescued in Turkish waters back to Turkey, then I’d say the blame lies with Turkey).
The other article is behind a paywall. Luckily, the source of the claim, Statewatch, is mentioned, so a little digging led me to the link that should have been in the article:

Okay, so what happened? In a draft version of a nonbinding resolution by the EU council, the council (not “The EU”) “acknowledges the distinction” between “people smuggling” (illegally bringing people accross the border) and “people trafficking” (exploiting people by transporting them), but downplays it by stating that both crimes are often interlinked and that people smuggling can be a violent crime, too. They do have a point, because what the people smugglers are doing is not like offering a benign but technically illegal passenger line between Turkey and Greece. They are exploiting people, even killing them.

People smuggling is already a criminal act. This non-binding council proposal does not call for redefining what people smuggling is. It fails to call on other EU institutions to ensure that rescue workers are exempted.

Conclusion: This is not an evil already-approved plan by “The EU” to criminalize humanitarian aid.

Move along. Nothing to see here. Just the usual sensationalism.


Late stage neoliberalism.


I kindly disagree - the Council resolution is one step in the downward process. Similar to the operations in the Mediterranean Sea, the Italian-led Mare Nostrum had has primary goal search and rescue. The following Operation Triton, led by the EU agency Frontex was focussed on border control with SAR as only as negligible secondary goal. While Triton is still an active operation the EU launched Navfor Med, a distinctly military mission - SAR is not even part of the profile, it’s stopping human trafficking. What’s next?

The political commitment to soften the dividing line between people resuce and people smuggling is alarming, especially as I don’t see any master plan to handle the current migration.

The whole strategy is “one air bombing here, one training mission there, oh, and don’t forget to criminalise aid organisations and victims of civil wars”.


Yeah shame on you dirty volunteers for acting like decent human beings.

On the other hand those volunteers wouldn’t have any work to do if the turkish authorities started doing their damn jobs.


I’m still confused by the fact that many of these countries- the US in particular- are 100% A-OK with toppling regional leaders, bombing the heck out of the population, creating power vacuums that - let’s face it - are never filled with moderates - and yet these same countries are shocked - shocked! - when the people who live in the region they destabilized flee and seek asylum in the very same countries that did the destabilizing.

Kinda messed up that American “responsibility” ends with dropping bombs - WTF did they think was going to happen. Oh right, we elected a simpleton & a psychopath to the highest office and let them run wild with the war machine. We are responsible for what our leaders do in our name - like it or no - so America should be leading the way in assisting those escaping the war zone we created.


Even if that were true - there are other indigenous peoples who are far more in need of our help.

Unfortunately exactly those countries shirk their duties. There are countries who do the de-stabilizing and others who have to take the responsibilities. I guess that the german government would be quite eager to start transferring the syrian and iraqi refugees to the UK and US …


This is not about people on the shore helping someone who is drowning. These actions are there to prevent activists from escorting immigrants from Libya and Turkey to European shores. It is understood that these people are doing what they think is the right thing, but they are adding to the problem. If you think that you are going to be rescued as soon as you get into deep water, you will be more likely to make the attempt in an obviously unseawothy vessel.


Okay, you’re saying that priorities are shifting from “rescuing people” to “preventing immigration”. That may be true. Though it’s not that simple - we’ll see which strategy leads to fewer drowned people in the long run. We know that a rescue-only approach does not work (as it leads to more and more traffic[king], and thus also to more and more drowned people as you only manage to rescue a constant percentage), and that a border-protection-only approach is inhuman. The exact balance is up for political debate.

But there’s a huge leap which I cannot logically follow from this to:

Where do you find that “political commitment”? It’s not in that non-binding council resolution.

Whether you are for or against putting more emphasis on preventing people smuggling, that resolution contains nothing about “softening the dividing line between people rescue and people smuggling”. It talks about what to do about people smuggling and people trafficking.

Depending on your political priorities, you may deplore that the council now talks about doing something about people smuggling without first talking about rescuing people and welcoming refugees, but they are not even mentioning volunteer rescue workers in that resolution, and why should they have?

the draft is the opinion of the governments of the EU member states, how would you call the result if not political commitment?

1 Like

You may well call the things that are in the draft “a political commitment”. But I repeat, there is nothing about rescue workers in that draft. If I have overlooked it, please point me to it.

I’m not sure why we’re arguing about this - if one chamber of the legislative power publishes an (even nonbinding) statement it is normally not something to dismiss or ignore

the missing part about rescue workers is the main point the statewatch article criticises: Because humanitarian assistance is not mentioned they are worried that NGOs will be criminalised

1 Like

Also, anyone who takes a piss on a refugee dying of thirst can now be charged as an “unlicensed beverage distributor.”


We’re not really. I’m not saying that a statement issued by one of the legislative chambers should be dismissed.
However, this is a draft written by the current council presidency (Dutch government), which was used as a basis for discussion during the informal council meeting on January 26th.
If the draft statement fails to mention that a specific law should not be changed, then that can not be logically taken as a “political commitment”.

Yes, they are worried. But it is a giant leap of logic. The resolution is specifically about people smuggling. Which rescue workers aren’t allowed to do now, and won’t be allowed to do in the future. Not mentioning rescue workers in a context where they are not directly relevant is not a political commitment.

By the way, did you know that back in 2005, the US senate announced a political commitment to abolish the teaching of mathematics in America?

1 Like

Just sew a Canadian flag on your backpack…


This topic was automatically closed after 5 days. New replies are no longer allowed.