Trial in Agrigento: No to the criminalisation of solidarity

03.Sep.07 - Since August 22, 2007, seven Tunisian fishermen have been on trial in Agrigento (Sicily), accused of \"assisting illegal immigration\". They risk up to 15 years imprisonment. Prosecuted as human traffickers, what they did was in fact just their basic duty of solidarity: on August 8, near the island of Lampedusa, they picked up 44 passengers from a boat in distress at sea and brought them to the harbour.

Without their intervention the shipwrecked people - including two pregnant women and two children - would propably have suffered the same fate as the thousands of migrants and refugees who in the last years have drowned while trying to reach the European coasts.

The trial in Agrigento is a new phase in the war EU leads agaist migrants and refugees. After the militarisation of the Andalusian coast; after the dramatic events in Ceuta and Melilla in 2005 where several people were shot by the Moroccan police for trying to cross the Spanish border; after the cordoning off of the coasts of Mauritania and Senegal to prevent crossings to the Canary Islands; after the construction of deportation camps where, as in Libya, the rights of refugees and migrants are trampled under foot; today it is the weapon of deterrence which is wielded.

By punishing the assistance to people in danger, the Italian authorities force sailors and fishermen to break the international law of the sea, which demands that they do everything in their power to rescue ships in distress. But not only that: by criminalizing rescue operations they make themselves responsible - in the best case scenario - for the deportation of people to countries where the rights of people in need of protection are not respected. In the worst case they condemn to death women, men and children who have done nothing but search for a better existence or even to save their lives.

Italy, a true laboratory of the EU migration policy, has in 2005 deported hundreds of migrants by charter flights to Libyan jails. Today Italy denies the migrants access to its coasts, hereby implementing the logic of the externalisation of the European border control - of which the European agency Frontex is a characteristic symbol.

We, agents of the civilian societies of Subsaharan Africa, of Northern Africa and of Europe, activists and democrats from south and north of the Mediterranean, demand the abolishment of the ideology of control and repression that drives the migration policy through externalisation of asylum and border control and of the criminalisation of migration. We oppose the \"trial on solidarity\" against the defenders of human rights. We demand the release of the seven Tunisian fishermen of the boats Mortadha and Mohammed el-Hedi.

To sign the call: send an e-mail to Claire Rodier

First signataries:

ASGI (Associazione Studi Giuridici sull’Immigrazione), ATFD (Association Tunisienne des femmes democrates), Conseil des Migrants Subsahariens au Maroc, CRLDHT (Comité pour le Respect des Libertés et des Droits de l’Homme en Tunisie), FTCR (Fédération des Tunisiens pour une Citoyenneté des Deux Rives), GISTI (Groupe d’Information et de soutien des Immigrés), Intet menneske er illegalt (no-one is illegal, Denmark), IPAM (initiative pour un autre monde), LTDH (Ligue tunisienne des droits de l’homme), réseau Migreurop, Mehdi Lahlou, Fulvio Vassalo Paleologo