Andrea Costa, president of the Baobab Experience association, was acquitted yesterday – together with two other activists – of the charge of aiding and abetting illegal immigration and trafficking in human beings, for collecting 250 euros needed by nine people in transit from Rome to Ventimiglia.
“The acquittal of the solidarity workers of the Roman non-profit organisation Baobab Experience (“The fact does not exist”) is an emblematic decision in the dispute between humanitarian reception and closure of borders. It is not a new fact, because other similar sentences had preceded it, such as the acquittal of Carola Rackete confirmed by the Court of Cassation, or that of the volunteers of Linea d’Ombra in Trieste, Gian Andrea Franchi and Lorena Fornasir, dedicated to helping those who arrive in the city from the Balkan route. So far, all legal proceedings against people and NGOs engaged in spontaneous forms of aid to migrants, and especially to asylum seekers, have resulted in acquittals, or rather defeats for the accusers”.
This story – in the charges and in the acquittal – is similar to the one experienced by activists who, at the French-Italian border, support migrants as they attempt to cross the border through the Alps. In July 2018, the French Constitutional Court ruled unconstitutional the conviction of farmer Cédric Herrou, who was sentenced, like several others, in 2017 and placed under house arrest.
That was an acquittal of fundamental importance: disinterested support for a migrant person cannot be pursued, in the name of that ‘principle of fraternity’, which must be placed on the same level as the other two founding principles of the French Republic, freedom and equality.
It is therefore legitimate to dream that the Italian Constitutional Court will be asked to make a solemn and definitive pronouncement, in synergy with that of the highest French judges: the road to deep solidarity, without injustice and discrimination on the basis of skin and race, is long and tortuous. What is happening at the Polish border is very painful: Ukrainian refugees are being generously welcomed, while African, Asian and Middle Eastern migrants who used to work in Ukraine are being rejected!
“They said ‘No Blacks’ to us and made us get off the bus that was crossing the border to Poland. Me, my family and other immigrants,” a Nigerian activist and father of three told the Independent.
“My nephew, a citizen of Morocco, was rejected at the border between Ukraine and Poland. After various vicissitudes, with all the documentation, he was trying to escape from Ukraine and enter Poland to catch a plane and return home,” an Italian woman complained on Twitter. Full-blown racism, in plain words.”