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Hundreds across Europe harassed, charged and arrested for supporting migrants, new report shows

HUNDREDS of people, including “elderly women, priests and firefighters” are being harassed, charged or arrested for showing support and solidarity for migrants, a shocking new report has revealed.

Data compiled by the openDemocracy website details how draconian laws have been used against individuals including a French olive grower arrested for feeding and sheltering migrants on the border of Italy and a 70-year-old Danish grandmother who was convicted and fined for offering a lift to a family with small children.

At least 250 people have been charged in 14 countries over the last five years, according to the group’s study.

But most cases were found in just seven countries — Italy, Greece, France, Britain, Germany, Denmark and Spain.

The report suggested that the numbers had “risen sharply” in the last 18 months, particularly in Italy and France where far-right parties hold power at national and local levels.

Figures showed that in 2018 at least 100 people were arrested, charged or investigated, double the number for the previous year. 

Most appeared to have been targeted for providing food, shelter, transport or other support to migrants without legal papers.

NGOs warned of an attempt to “criminalise” their work.

France has a specific delit de solidarite, crime of solidarity, contained in its immigration law.

But a 2018 court judgment ruled it unconstitutional to use this law against people who act for humanitarian reasons.

In July last year, the European Commission created an observatory of the criminalisation cases.

The Council of Europe’s commissioner for human rights Dunja Mijatovic said it was “troubling to see” the increase in cases.

“Instead of clamping down on those who help migrants live a more dignified life,” she said, European leaders must “recommit with human rights, the rule of law and European values. This is both a legal and a moral duty.”

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