167,792 of 200,000 signatures

To the European Commission

Petition text:

Do not punish those who uphold Europe’s tradition of offering dignity and human rights to some of the most vulnerable people. Stop the criminalisation of those offering humanitarian assistance to refugees and migrants.

Why this is important

Manuel Blanco, Enrique Rodríguez and Julio Latorre are Spanish firemen. Last December, they moved to the Greek island of Lesbos to become volunteers for NGO PROEMAID (Professional Emergency Aid) and put their professional lifesaving experience to a noble cause: saving children, women, and men, escaping war and poverty from drowning.

On 7 May 2018, Greece tried them for rescuing people from drowning. They could have faced a sentence of 10 years of imprisonment, but thankfully they were acquitted of all charges by the court.

These men risked their lives to help thousands of people, but their lifesaving actions were seen by the Greek government as human smuggling.

European legislation allowed Julio, Manuel and Enrique to be arrested for human smuggling. Sign now to demand humanitarian workers are free from criminal charges for the work they do.

At endless emergency meetings our governments have only addressed the migration question from a security angle, and have completely forgotten about the human one. So, when people like Manuel, Enrique and Julio step up and offer vital humanitarian assistance to those who desperately need it, you’d think such actions would be welcome. Our leaders need to know Europeans want them to focus on the human aspect of this crisis.

About the Case

On 14 January 2016, in the middle of the night, volunteers received the notice of a possible shipwreck of a group of migrants who were attempting to reach Greece. Three members of PROEM-AID (Manuel Blanco, Enrique González and Julio Latorre) together with some other volunteers, decided to search for the sinking boat. As usual, they were wearing their rescue uniform with light-safety helmets.

After a reasonable time looking for the lost potentially shipwrecked boat using a long reach bulb, they considered the operation unsuccessful and decided to return to the coast. Suddenly, being quite close to the beach, a big vessel from the Greek authorities asked them to join them in the coast guard’s office to proceed with a regular registration.

Once in the office, the three Spanish volunteers were interrogated and arrested under charges of attempted human trafficking/smuggling and weapon possession (mandatory line cutter in rescue uniforms).

After three days of being detained, the firmen were released after paying a deposit of warranty of presence (€5,000 each) in a pending criminal trial.

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Thank you for making sure people can continue to offer hugely lacking assistance to refugees in Europe without facing criminal charges.

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