Thursday, February 09, 2017

Good Samaritans and Refugees

Image result for Pierre-Alain Mannoni
This afternoon there will be a meeting at Bridge St. of those interested in participating in the support teams for the two Syrian households soon to arrive in Belleville. They are coming under the auspices of the multi-denominational and multi-faith coalition which made the commitment to sponsor a total of twenty-three members of one extended family living in Lebanese refugee camps. With the arrival of this family of five and the two grandparents all 23 will be safely in Canada, something of a miracle which has involved relentless work on the part of a dedicated group of caring sponsors.

Of course all this has happened with the blessing of the Canadian government and is perfectly legal. What if this was not the case? What if the government had discouraged family reunification and we had felt compelled to act in a clandestine manner to bring others after the Al Mansour family arrived in December of 2015?

I've noticed several articles in recent months about people in European countries being prosecuted for helping asylum seekers outside the law, because of their sense of compassion and justice. They have been charged with criminal offences for doing so. Here is one example:

PARIS—It was a split-second decision that would land Pierre-Alain Mannoni in court facing charges normally associated with human trafficking.Returning home from an evening out in La Roya — rugged, mountainous back country near his home in Nice, inland from the Mediterranean Sea — his friends invited him to see an old building appropriated by activists and NGOs. They were using the space to shelter migrants, mainly from Sudan and Eritrea, who had crossed the nearby Italian border.
With more than 50 people in the abandoned SNCF railway building, they were running out of space. Mannoni was asked if he could take some people back to Nice for medical care.
“I hesitated because I was working the next day, but when I saw them the answer was clear. Three Eritrean girls appeared. They were all badly injured, one wearing a cast, another could barely walk. They had come by foot. You could see they were cold, frightened and in pain. They needed help.”
They didn’t make it far. Stopped at the highway toll booth, Mannoni was arrested under Article L622-1 of France’s immigration law. It says anyone who “facilitates or attempts to facilitate the illegal entry, movement or residence of a foreigner in France shall be punished by imprisonment for five years and a fine of €30,000.” Often referred to as the “crime of solidarity,” the law has been used to prosecute people who support migrants and asylum-seekers.

It's interesting that while these compassionate people are being charged, judges are choosing to either dismiss charges, or refraining from fining them upon conviction.  In a public statement, Mr. Mannoni, said his action was “neither political nor militant, it was simply human; any citizen could have done it, and whether it be for the honor of our motherland, for our dignity as free men, for our values, our beliefs, for love or for compassion, we cannot leave victims to die on our doorsteps."

As a law-abiding guy I wonder to what extent I would go to live out my compassion for refugees and asylum seekers? What about you? And what are your thoughts about these situations in Europe?

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