Freed From Custody


Trinity College Dublin graduate Sean Binder; Hundreds of thousands of lifejackets in a makeshift dump outside Eftalou, northern Lesbos in December 2015

Further to the arrest and detention of Sean Binder, 24, from Togher in Cork – who was working as a volunteer with asylum seekers on the island of Lesbos in Greece – last August…

The Guardian reports:

“After 107 days of incarceration, Sarah Mardini – the Syrian human rights worker who saved 18 refugees in 2015 by swimming their waterlogged dinghy to the shores of Lesbos with her Olympian sister – has been freed from Greece’s toughest jail.

The 23-year-old was released late on Wednesday from the high-security Koryallos prison in Athens, where she was being held in pre-trial detention on charges of people-smuggling.

She was allowed to walk free after her lawyers posted €5,000 (£4,450) in bail.

Sean Binder, a 24-year-old volunteer born in Germany and resident in Ireland, was also freed from custody in Chios [a separate island] along with two others from the NGO for which both had worked.

Mardini and Binder had faced prison sentences of up to 25 years after being accused of facilitating people-smuggling through membership of a criminal organisation. Charges of espionage and money laundering were also levelled at the activists.

Both had been volunteering in search and rescue operations with the now-defunct Emergency Response Centre International (ERCI), an NGO based on Lesbos.

…But [Zaccharias Kesses, the lawyer heading the aid workers’ legal team in Athens] said a trial was still likely to take place. “The charges may be amended but I think it very unlikely that the trial will be dropped. There is vast pressure in local society against NGOs, who are perceived to be pull factors for refugees at a time when few want them.”

Syrian aid worker who swam refugees to safety freed from Greek jail (The Guardian)

Related: Sean Binder’s Arrest Represents the Criminalisation of Compassion (University Times)

Pic: University Times

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7 thoughts on “Freed From Custody

  1. Pee Pee

    Is that what they’re doing, arresting those who help on charges of human trafficking? Seems pretty sinister, if so.

    1. Ian-O

      That impression is given but we really do not have enough to go on here?

      It could be he is just a naive young man trying to help, it could be he has been taking money to get certain people into the EU who should not be here but sans any solid information its difficult to make a call here?

      What I do know is that Greece has been in a tail spin for some time now and anti migrant sentiment is running high so some foreigner coming over and helping migrants into Greece is also going to attract a lot of animosity from certain sections of Greek society. Sadly, in a case like this, best to not help or volunteer and in the face of genuine human suffering, that’s profoundly depressing.

      1. Kollontai

        I met him in Lesvos and found him to be thoroughly empathetic and well informed. His organisation was very particular about adhering to regulations; they wouldn’t use infra-red or night vision as they had been requested to stop and the coast guard was contacted before and after a boat landed.

        If you look at the accusations; money laundering, espionage, and people smuggling they simply don’t hold up to experience on the ground. It’s a transparent attempt by local authorities to take control over the situation. Yet if volunteer organisations are pushed out more people will drown, it’s already happening in Italy.

        As for animosity from the Greeks, that’ only true of a very small selection. Most just want to get on with their lives.

  2. Eoin

    Delighted they’ve been freed, but charities and NGOs need to accept the world has changed, by the will of the people of the EU through their elected representatives.

    Turkey, which is next door to Syria, is being paid by the EU to accommodate Syrian refugees, just as Libya is being paid to accommodate economic migrants and refugees from across Africa. If people try to subvert this arrangement by facilitating the arrival of refugees from these transit countries – Turkey and Libya – then they will be breaking the law and risk imprisonment.

    Such people in certain charities and NGOs, however well-intentioned, are also encouraging and lining the pockets of people smugglers and placing people’s lives at risk by offering the hope that if they undertake a dangerous sea journey, they will be allowed stay in the destination.

    If Sean and Sarah want to lawfully help refugees, maybe they should join an NGO doing work in Turkey or Libya. And if the rest of us don’t like this arrangement, then vote for different representatives. And I say all of this as someone who thinks Ireland has failed miserably in its tiny target for the intake of refugees.

    The world has changed.

    1. Kollontai

      it’s not quite as simple as that.

      Kurdish people face very active discrimination in Turkey, Libya is a failed state with slave markets and islamic State enclaves. They’re simply not safe.

      People to have a right to seek asylum, they’re processed on the islands after landing and if they’re application is rejected they’re returned to Turkey.

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