According to the Copenhagen Post, two Danish aid workers who founded the non-profit organization Team Humanity have been arrested on human trafficking charges. Three Spanish volunteers from partner organization PROEM-AID have also been arrested. They are now awaiting trial and could face up to four years in prison.
A Team Humanity representative explained that the group had come across a sinking boat full of refugees off the coast of Lesbos. They called the Coast Guard but it didn’t show up on time, so they began pulling the refugees onto their own boat. When the Coast Guard finally arrived, they escorted them to shore, and the 5 individuals were charged with human trafficking.
“Two of our members…are right now arrested for saving 51 people from drowning. This is not only an attack on us, but an attack on the thousands of people we help. We hope they will be released shortly.”
Read the full story here.
- While there are documented cases of aid workers abusing their power, this doesn’t seem to be one of them. The NGO reportedly had a good relationship with the Greek authorities prior to this incident, and had been rescuing people out of the sea for several months.
- Here’s a refresher on the official definition of trafficking, as per UNODC:
Therefore, if someone is caught in the mere act of transporting another person (say, on their boat, as these people did), that in itself is not human trafficking. The means must be abusive or forceful, and the purpose must be exploitative in some way. This is hardly the case with this group of aid workers, who are saving people from drowning in the sea.
The Greek authorities are no doubt tired of refugees landing on their shores, but arresting aid workers and charging them with human trafficking is not the answer. Hopefully, this group of Danish and Spanish rescue workers are released soon, so they can get back to saving lives.