On the night of January 14, 2016, three Spanish lifeguards went to the sea in search of migrants who wanted to reach Lesbos and seek refuge; When they returned, without having found who they were going to help, they were arrested by the Greek Coast Guard and accused of trafficking people in a tentative manner.
On May 7, the rescuers Manuel Blanco, Julio Latorre and José Enrique Rodríguez will be judged in Mytilene (Lesbos, Greece). According to Blanco, they could face up to ten years in prison.
“We are not prepared to be condemned to save lives and prevent people from drowning in the sea, there is no mental preparation for that, it does not fit into our schemes,”
The rescuers are part of the rescue team of the Spanish NGO Professional Emergency Aid ( Proemaid ) that that night embarked on their third mission on the ship of two Danish members of Team Humanity (since the Spanish were in repair), help the Syrians, Afghans, Iraqis, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis who, through the Aegean, fled the war, Daesh and the troubled Middle East.
“Approximately 50 refugees arrive by boat in very precarious conditions,” Blanco said, “the boat does not float well, the vests that the mafia provides them, they do not have reflective … a wet body loses temperature 20 times faster than a dry one … we have seen people die from hypothermia, drowned children, when they call us to help, we do not hesitate for a moment and we embark. ”
In that sense, he added: “our vocation prevents us from staying on the shore watching people drown, we do not want the sea to decide whether a child, a woman or a man can or can not ask for asylum in a country.”
It is estimated that some 800,000 people crossed the sea between the summer of 2015 and the spring of 2016; the death toll is still undetermined.
It is the first time that volunteers are judged participants of this type of missions. According to Blanco, “it is a fact that can present a very serious precedent”. “We are the scapegoat,” he warns.
“When we go abroad we speak with our embassy in the country of destination, with the local authorities to say ‘we are firemen, we come to help, these are our teams, these are our capabilities’, and we work in the rescue area that they assign us […] We do not understand what happened, “the rescuer said.
Blanco noted that the Criminal Law in Greece is contrasted with the “Duty to render assistance” established by Article 98 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
“Any ship’s captain who has evidence that another ship is sinking has the inexcusable obligation to rescue him because otherwise, he would be committing the crime of omitting the duty of relief,” he explained.
The accused have the support of the Spanish government and all political parties. Among other authorities, they were received by the foreign minister, Alfonso Dastis, who promised to discuss the situation with his Greek counterpart.
“We are happy for the support received, both at the institutional, political and government levels, as well as on the street, the orange colour of our shirts is the universal colour of the rescue, people recognize the shirt and they support us, they show us their affection”, assured the lifeguard.
Source: Mundo Sputnik News