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AYS Daily Digest 27/05/21: Appeal Trial Begins for ‘Briançon 7’, Activists Convicted in the French-Italian Alps

NGO registry under scrutiny in Greece // Landings and returns in Italy and UK // Dutch Parliament won’t deport to Syria // AYS free shop relocates // & more news

Photo: Comité de soutien aux 3+4 de Briançon

FEATURE — Appeal Process Underway in Grenoble for ‘Briançon 7’

In yesterday’s digest we reported the happy news that four individuals, including two journalists, were acquited in a Brussels appeals court of human trafficking charges after they sheltered people-on-the-move in their homes.

Yesterday, May 27, another appeal trial involving the ‘criminalization of solidarity’ began in Grenoble, France, for the so-called ‘Briançon 7’, a group of individuals who were convicted of “facilitating the irregular entry of foreign nationals” into France in December 2018.

The story of ‘Briançon 7’ begins in the spring of 2018. On April 22, the seven human rights defenders gathered along the French-Italian border, near the commune of Briançon. The group included four French nationals, Jean-Luc Jalmain, Benoit Ducos, Lisa Malapert and Briançon resident Mathieu Burellier, and three foreign nationals, Italian Eleonora Laterza, Swiss Bastian Stauffer and Swiss-Belgian Theo Buckmaster.

The group’s aim was to show solidarity with people-on-the-move making the dangerous crossing from Italy into France. The seven participated in a peaceful demonstration, in which they marched from ski town of Clavière in Italy towards France, crossing the border into the French town of Briançon.

Traveling with them were some twenty people-on-the-move, whom they escorted along the treacherous mountain pass. The activists were responding to a blockade set up at a nearby mountain pass by several dozen far-right activists from Generation Identitaire (Identity Generation), who were trying to prevent the entry of the people-on-the-move into France.

“The march was organised as a peaceful response to the actions of anti-migrant groups and the militarisation of the Franco-Italian border, which has pushed migrants to attempt to enter France through mountain passes without suitable equipment or the requisite knowledge, thus putting them at risk,” Front Line Defenders wrote following the activists’ convictions.

The group of seven were arrested after the demonstration and convicted in the Criminal Court of Gap on December 13, 2018 of “facilitating the irregular entry of foreign nationals”. Mathieu Burellier and Jean-Luc Jalmain were sentenced to twelve months’ imprisonment, eight of which were suspended, due to previous convictions. The five others received a suspended sentence of six months.

Front Line Defenders said the ruling “criminalises their [the activists’] peaceful and legitimate work for the protection of migrants rights and endangers the work of migrants rights defenders in France.”

Now, two and a half years after the conviction, the appeal trial for the Briançon 7 is finally underway in the French city of Grenoble.

Amnesty International wrote in a press release this week that the organization “considers that the conviction of the Briançon 7 for facilitation of irregular entry must be quashed, as it contravenes the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.”

Additionally, a petition has been launched to draw attention to the criminalization of solidarity. (You can sign the petition here.)

The petition reads, in part:

For 5 years, French Government has been hunting down those it considers undesirable, carrying out daily illegal deportations in violation of its own laws.

For 5 years, thousands of solidarity workers and dozens of caregivers have been taking turns in the name of the principle of fraternity to assist exiles coming to our country in the hope for a little peace[…]

For us, SOLIDARITY CITIZENS, repeating tirelessly this deadly scenario at the Briançon’s border is not acceptable.

The militarization of our mountains is a French State vain gesture leading people in exile to take more and more risks.

Let’s make these trials a new opportunity to highlight repression, injustice and the invisibilized violence exercised every day on people in exile.

“The people who die on the beaches, if they were white, the whole world would be moved” Fatou Diome.

We call on citizens, associations, institutions, elected officials and communities to support our fight for solidarity and, at last, to stop the prosecution of volunteers, associations and defenders of rights.

More information about the case and updates on the appeal trial can be found here.


50 rescued in the Med

Returns to Libya


NGOs under fire in Greece

Refugee Support Aegean (RSA) published an interesting report examining the increasing scurinty under which NGOs operating in Greece are put.

“Risks of repression of civil society organisations supporting refugees and migrants in Greece have been heavily exacerbated by successive legislative reforms in 2020, introducing disproportionate and ambiguous requirements for registration on two Registries managed by the Ministry of Migration and Asylum”, RSA wrote.

The report includes a detailed timeline of the restrictions imposed on Greece’s NGO registry.

Read more about it here.

Antiracism Demo at Victoria Square (Athens) — May 29 at 12pm

More information here.

A personal story from an Iraqi woman

No Name Kitchen published a personal story of an Iraqi woman now living in Athens. The woman, who recently moved to Athens from the island of Kos, asked them to report her experience.

I am a refugee from Iraq and before I was on the island of Kos. My life was rough from early age. My mother died when I was little. I was raped at the age of ten years, married to the man who raped me to safe the honour of my familiy, but got devorced quickly and returned to my father’s house. I was lucky to go to school and university, but suffered a lot from being bullied growing up as a divorced woman.

Read her full story here.


Are You Syrious relocates!

Are You Syrious’ integration centre, office and Free Shop in Zagreb has moved to a new home: Božidara Magovca 165 is our new address. We are on the plateau area and will be welcoming everyone there from the next week!
In the meantime, the free shop will be closed from May 28–31.


4 Landings in Lampedusa

No quarantine for cargo ship following rescue

Afte the cargo ship BBC Weser rescued 38 people at sea two days ago, the vessel and its crew was allowed to continue on its normal route. No quarantine for cargo ships, it seems—only for humanitarian search and rescue. Curious…

SeaEye 4 sails for Palermo

Speaking of quarantines, SeaEye 4 received permission to move from Pozzallo, seven days after the crew disembarked the 414 rescued people. The crew will continue their quarantine in Palermo.


Parliament says Syria not safe for deportations

The Dutch Parliament this week rejected to follow in the footsteps of Denmark in deporting recognized refugees back to Syria, media reported.

Lawmakers gathered on May 25 to discuss the security situation in Syria. Far-right parties voiced proposals to declare Syria, or regions of the country, as ‘safe areas’, a move which would allow for deportations.

The right-wing parties proposed to to suspend permanent residencies issued to Syrian refugees after five years; send a Dutch delegation to arrange the repatriation of Syrian refugees with the Damascus government; and work in tandem with Denmark in that country’s plans to repatriate Syrians. Last year, the Netherlands re-confirmed Syria as an unsafe country, according to media.

The Parliament, however, rejected these proposals this week. Lawmakers agreed to commission a study of the challenges to the integration of refugees in the Netherlands.


Foreign Affairs Ministry condemns Syria election

While Denmark is actively trying to deport refugees back to Syria, its Foreign Affairs Minister wrote on Twitter yesterday that the recent presidential elections in Syria were “neither free nor fair”, but “a coronation”. Seems like Denmark shouldn’t deport refugees back to a country without free elections—not even mentioning that parts of Syria are still active war zones.


Frontex in Albania


Returns to France from the Channel

Latest stats on people seeking asylum in the UK

Quick facts from the UK’s Refugee Council:

  • 26,903 asylum applications made in the last 12 months
  • 47% of applications granted asylum or protection at initial decision stage in the year ending March 2021
  • 50,084 — the number of people awaiting an initial decision for more than six months

More information on the UK government’s website, here.

Update on Napier Barracks


  • People taking the Balkan Route toward Western Europe routinely face violence and maltreatment. Addressing the root causes meanings moving beyond charity.
  • Romania: a thorough overview of the situation for people-on-the-move — In 2020, arrivals increased by 238 percent and represent a “noteworthy shift” in the Balkan Route.
  • A new research being launched on 8 June looked at how unemployment produced by the immigration system impacts upon foreign nationals and their families. Researchers followed 30 mixed-nationality families consisting of foreign national men and their British or EEA national partners or children.

“The men’s precarious or unlawful immigration status made them liable to immigration enforcement measures, prohibited them from employment and public funds, and created many other everyday restrictions.”

  • “Considering Europe’s historic exploitation of their own nations, the legacy of slavery, the obligations of international treaties and the many lives of their fellow human beings lost in the Mediterranean, those on the move should not then be subject to systemic racism by the EU. And some member states in particular have to show more solidarity and respect for ‘our’ European values — including human dignity, democracy, equality and the rights of members of minorities.”

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Are You Syrious?

Are You Syrious?

Daily news digests from the field, mainly for volunteers and refugees on the route, but also for journalists and other parties.