Humanitarian relief is never a crime

The recent arrests of two migration justice heroes shows that many Western countries would rather persecute aid work than address the root causes of migration.
An illustration of SeaWatch-3 Captain Carola Rackete. (Twitter/kazi)

Earlier this month, two migration justice heroes each faced 10-year prison sentences for the “crime” of saving lives.

Carola Rackete, the captain of Sea-Watch 3, a German-operated search and rescue ship, was arrested by Italian authorities after landing the boat without permission on the island of Lampedusa. This was after a 17-day ordeal during which no European country offered the boat — with its 42 primarily Black and Muslim refugees — safe harbor. Carola was freed on Saturday, however the Italian Government impounded the ship and banned it from Italian waters. Today, 80 migrants drowned in an inflatable vessel that capsized off of the coast of Tunisia — people the Sea-Watch 3 and its valiant volunteer crew possibly could have saved.

Scott Warren, humanitarian activist and volunteer with No More Deaths in Tucson, Arizona, was criminalized again last week for saving migrant lives. In June, a hung jury refused to convict him for providing water, food, clean clothes and beds to two undocumented migrants who had crossed the Sonoran Desert from Mexico. However, last week prosecutors called Scott back to court on new trumped up charges.

Carola and Scott’s criminalization are emblematic of the growth and resurgence of a White Supremacist movement in many Western countries — one which seeks to persecute and punish humanitarian aid workers rather than welcome the tired, hungry, poor and oppressed. Rather than stem the tide of migration by addressing political and economic root causes in which these Western countries are complicit, they seek to project and deflect the ills of the world onto the victims themselves and those who seek to rescue them.

If you belong to an organization that provides and(or) defends migrant justice, please consider joining the Fellowship of Reconciliation, IFOR Germany, and No More Deaths in endorsing the International Sanctuary Declaration, a grassroots organizing and networking tool used by a growing number of migrant justice organizations here and abroad.

This story was produced by Fellowship Magazine

Since 1918, the Fellowship of Reconciliation has published the award-winning print magazine Fellowship. It is also now online, offering original grassroots analysis, movement research, first-person commentary, poetry and more to help people of faith and conscience build a nonviolent, compassionate world.

Waging Nonviolence partners with other organizations and publishes their work.