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Criminalisation of Solidarity: How to protect the right to help migrants and refugees?

Public health

Place du Congrès, Brussels, Belgium

Criminalisation of Solidarity: How to protect the right to help migrants and refugees?



Did you know that volunteers and citizens have been criminalised for helping migrants and refugees across Europe? Our research indicates that between 2015 and 2019, at least 171 people have been investigated or prosecuted in 13 European countries for providing humanitarian assistance at sea or providing shelter to migrants and refugees at their homes.

This webinar provides a unique opportunity to hear the personal testimonies of people who have been facing criminal prosecutions as well as views from researchers and advocacy organisations.

Sean Binder is one of the victims of the criminalisation of solidarity. Sean could not take seeing refugees drown at sea, so he volunteered as a trained rescue worker in Lesvos, Greece. Like many across Europe, his humanitarian work was framed as a crime, and he spent more than 100 days in the highest security prison in Greece. He still risks facing up to 25 years in prison on ‘people smuggling’ charges.

Anouk Van Gestel is a Belgian journalist who opened the doors of her home to migrants who camped in the Maximillian Park. Hundreds of Belgian citizens made similar acts of compassion. Along with 11 other volunteers and migrants, she was accused of migrant smuggling aggravated with participation in an organised criminal group. Even though the court acquitted Anouk, accepting she acted out of solidarity, the prosecutor went on to appeal this decision.

Why is solidarity conflated with a crime? How did the situation escalate? Furthermore, what can be done to protect the right to help?

Hear from Sean Binder and Anouk Van Getsel to unpick the accusations. Researchers from CEPS and the Migration Policy Group as well as advocates from Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM) will provide an overview of the criminalisation and their key recommendations.

Moderator: Thomas Huddleston, Research Director, Migration Policy Group


• Sergio Carrera, CEPS/ MPC EUI
• Michele Levoy, PICUM
• Carmine Conte, MPG
• Anouk Van Gestel
• Sean Binder
• Lina Vosyliute, CEPS


This event is co-organised by CEPS, MPG & PICUM


This webinar will take place via Zoom.

Once registered, you will receive instructions on how to join this event in an email confirmation and a reminder before the event starts.

Sergio Carrera Sergio Carrera
Sergio Carrera

Senior Research Fellow and Head of Justice and Home Affairs unit

Speakers list
Sergio Carrera

Senior Research Fellow, CEPS/visiting professor at Migration Policy Centre (MPC) European University Institute (EUI) and Sciences Po

Sean Binder

criminalised volunteer in Greece

Anouk Van Gestel

criminalised citizen in Belgium

Carmine Conte

Legal Policy Analyst, Migration Policy Group

Michele Levoy

Director, PICUM

Lina Vosyliute

Research Fellow, CEPS