Decriminalising Solidarity

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What is the Facilitation Directive?

In 2002 the EU adopted a Directive to identify what is meant by facilitation of the entry, transit and residence of undocumented migrants in the EU.

The Facilitation Directive (2002/90/EC) states that anyone who intentionally assists an undocumented migrant to enter or transit across the EU is breaking the law, as well as those who profit financially by helping undocumented migrants to reside in the EU. In many cases, this means organised smuggling rings, employers or landlords who seek to exploit undocumented migrants’ vulnerable position.

However, the Facilitation Directive does not rule out imposing similar sanctions on individuals or organisations that offer humanitarian assistance to undocumented migrants. This could include the provision of emergency shelter, food and medical attention, even if these services are delivered to the undocumented migrant free of charge.

In addition, more and more responsibility is being placed on service providers to report undocumented migrants, putting them in difficult situations that could lead to the suppression of moral conscience, financial penalties and arrest. Service providers should not have to bear the burden of acting as immigration officers.

Meet Manuel

Manuel Blanco is a Spanish fire fighter.

He and his colleagues Julio Latorre and Enrique Rodriguez are part of the NGO PROEM-AID and have been volunteering on the Greek island of Lesbos since 2015. Together with the Greek authorities, they had been working to save the lives of migrants and refugees in danger at sea.

But in January, Manuel, Julio and Enrique were arrested. Because they have been pulling drowning men, women and children to safety, they have been accused of people smuggling.

Because of the Facilitation Directive, Manuel, Julio and Enrique now face up to ten years in jail.

Find out more about this case in this short video:

Read more about the state of play of the Facilitation Directive and case studies.

What we want

Social Platform wants to stop criminalisation of those who act in solidarity by offering humanitarian assistance. We want to see the following things happen:

  1. The Facilitation Directive should be changed to say that those who provide services of humanitarian assistance to undocumented migrants without a profit-making motive shall not be criminalised or punished (it currently states that they “may not” face sanctions).
  2. Service providers should not have to report undocumented migrants they encounter when providing humanitarian assistance. In cases of abuse and exploitation of undocumented migrants, systems for reporting should be developed that protect both the service provider and the undocumented migrant.

Read our full policy position here.

What are the next steps?

The EU is assessing whether the Facilitation Directive should be revised. The European Parliament has published a report echoing many of our concerns and calling for the urgent revision of the humanitarian assistance clause of the Directive. The European Commission has conducted an impact assessment and a public consultation on this topic, which we have responded to. However, due to the very nature of the Directive, service providers and undocumented migrants are often unwilling to come forward and share their experiences in case it results in sanctions in the country of residence. We will share the results of the public consultation once they have been released.

WEMOVE_Logo_RGB_80mm_72dpiSocial Platform has partnered with, an organisation carrying out a petition to ‘Decriminalise Humanity’. The signatures will be handed over to decision-makers to influence the revision of the Facilitation Directive. Sign the petition in the following languages:

English ‘Criminalising humanity’ ; Deutsch ‘Nothilfe ist kein Schmuggel’ ; Français ‘Bénévoles pas criminels’ ; Italiano ‘La criminalizzazione della umanità’ ; Español ‘Tráfico humano | Salvar vidas: una delgada línea’.

Do you work for a not-for-profit organisation providing services and have felt pressure to exclude undocumented migrants from the services you provide? Have you experienced any form of sanction due to the delivery of services to an undocumented migrant? Have you had to conceal your activities to avoid sanctions in order to be able to provide your service to an undocumented migrant?  If so, we want to hear from you.