Stop Persecuting People Who Help Refugees

RefugeesOnHighway-JoachimSeidler

Target: Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

Goal: Rebuke Denmark for discouraging its citizens from helping refugees.

Denmark has charged a couple with human trafficking simply for giving comfort and transportation to a destitute refugee family. Seeing four adults walking along the highway with two young children, Lisbeth Zornig stopped to offer them a ride. She eventually brought the Syrian refugees to her home where she and her husband, Mikael Lindholm, gave them coffee and cookies before driving them to the train station so the family could continue its journey.

As Lisbeth Zornig told CBC’s As It Happens, “I went into this open-minded and took the risk because I thought it can’t possibly be illegal to help people walking on the highway.” Sadly for Ms Zornig, her husband, and the rest of Denmark, she was wrong. A Danish court fined the couple $6,809 under the country’s draconian Aliens Act, which criminalizes transporting people who don’t have permits to live in the country.

The courageous couple, as they reported to As It Happens, have no regrets. Zornig told The Guardian, “the only thing we did was the decent thing … They are criminalizing decency.” Sadly, the courage of a few is not enough; Zornig said in The Guardian that she believes her trial was politically motivated, that it was designed to send the message “don’t try to help refugees.”

It is time for the world to send Denmark a message instead. Sign the petition to call on the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights to tell the Danish government that helping refugees should be commended, not criminalized.

PETITION LETTER

Dear High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein,

You know better than most what human trafficking looks like. Trafficking is coercive and oppressive and involves taking control of another person. Educate the Danish government and tell them that offering a destitute refugee family snacks and a ride to the train station is not human trafficking.

After Lisbeth Zornig and her husband Mark Lindholm did just that, taking six refugees first to their home, where they gave the family coffee and cookies, and then to the train station to continue their journey, the Danish government charged the couple under Denmark’s Aliens Act. The court, moreover, imposed the maximum fine for the couple’s crime of compassion: $6,809.

More important than the fine levied against Zornig and her husband is the message that their prosecution sends. Zornig told The Guardian that she believes her trial was political–part of a concerted effort to discourage other Danes from helping vulnerable refugees.

While you have no legal power over the Danish government, we urge you to lend whatever moral authority you command to the cause of refugees. Tell the Danish government that it is revolting to encourage its citizens to turn a blind eye on the suffering of refugees.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Joachim Seidler

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