Solidarity trial: migrants and supporters prosecuted by the Belgian state!

French original by "Solidarity is not a crime", translated by borderline-europe

Alaa, Anouk, Hassan, Hussein, Mahmoud, Mohammad, Mustapha, Myriam, Walid, Youssef, Zakia. In prison because they are migrants? In prison because they have been in solidarity with migrants?

On March 23rd and 24th 2021 the appeal trial of eleven people prosecuted since 2017 for "human trafficking" and "participation in a criminal organisation", will take place. In 2018, when their first trial was pending, they made headlines. Today, we call on all those who believe in justice and solidarity to support them in this new ordeal.

borderline-europe reported already in 2019 on this case. More information, an interview and video with Anouk van Gestel, one of the accused, you can find here.

The solidarity trial goes against seven migrants and four supporters who acted in solidarity with those in search of a better life. Some of them hoped for a more dignified life in England than in Belgium, others found it unbearable that people are being left homeless and destitute. For these acts, nine of them have already had to spend between 2 and 13 months in prison.

In the first instance (Tribunal de première instance de Bruxelles), four people were acquitted - for two of them the Public Prosecutor himself had requested acquittal - but the others were sentenced to 12 to 40 months imprisonment, some of them suspended. Incomprehensibly, the Brussels Public Prosecutor's Office appealed against "the entire judgment" rendered. This new trial puts them at risk for sentences ranging up to 15 years in prison.

This call is yet another step in a long fight against the criminalisation of solidarity and for freedom, which resonates throughout Europe and beyond. Police and justice do not let go trying to find charges even though the files are empty of any evidence of crime. Their prosecution is above all political. It is the symbol of an escalation of the repression that has fallen on migrants for too many years and,  increasingly,  on  any  movement  of  solidarity  and  protest  against  the  security  and unequal order. This trend can be observed everywhere in Europe with the same modus operandi.

It is the lack of rights, safe and legal routes of passage and permanent accommodation structures that is a crime and pushes people into extreme precariousness every day, leading them to find the means for their survival, safety and freedom on their own. We denounce this trial which we see as an attempt to intimidate the impulses of solidarity that have flourished in Belgium and elsewhere in the face of these injustices.

Beyond the weight of the injustice of being prosecuted to try to get out of it or to help others to get out of it, beyond the ordeal of interrogations, police custody, prison, court, the criminalisation of solidarity has a considerable human and financial cost. The length of the procedures leads to lives suspended for years by the waiting as well as by the costs involved. A trial like this one causes irreparable psychological, social and economic damage:

  • As a  result  of  pre-trial  detention,  one hostlost  his  home  and  all  his  belongings  and  is currently in need of medical attention.

  • Some defendants face overwhelming legal fees. Several people have already had to pay more than €10,000 and are in debt for years.

  • An essential translation for the case had to be paid for by the defendants for the sum of 900€.

  • The solidarity continues, with some of the accused housing others, and this involves extra costs (food, charges...).

  • Prosecutions are a real hindrance to mobility, job-seeking or obtaining administrative status, and thus directly contribute to the precarious situation of those prosecuted.

We are therefore launching a call for solidarity and a fundraising common pool so as not to add financial, lasting and terrible  condemnation  to  the  ordeals  represented  by  prison,  preventive detention and prosecutions which have already lasted for nearly three years. Let us grow solidarity to oppose its criminalization.

We also invite people and organizations on 23 and 24 March 2021, the days of the appeal trial, to the Palais de Justice in Brussels, so that we can together show our solidarity with the accused and discuss this trial and all the others who weigh on migrants and solidarity in Belgium.

The collective “Solidarity is not a crime” emerged from the desire to denounce the criminalization of migration and solidarity through this trial revealing the xenophobic and security abuses of European states.

More information:

Tuesday, 23 March 2021