Free Humanitarians: Sarah Mardini, Seán Binder, Nassos Karakitsos and 21 others face trial on the 18th of November on the Greek island of Lesvos.

Free Humanitarians: Sarah Mardini, Seán Binder, Nassos Karakitsos and 21 others face trial on the 18th of November on the Greek island of Lesvos.

Open Letter

The Hellenic Minister of Migration and Asylum, Notis MITARACHIS,
The Hellenic Minister for Justice, Konstantinos TSIARAS,
The European Vice-President for Promoting our European Way of Life, Margaritis SCHINAS,
The European Commissioner for Migration and Home Affairs, Ylva JOHANSSON,
The European Commissioner for Justice, Didier REYNDERS.


Sarah Mardini, Seán Binder, Nassos Karakitsos and 21 others face trial on the 18th of November on the Greek island of Lesvos.

Sarah, Seán and Nassos spent more than three months in pre-trial detention in 2018 and are facing trial for people smuggling, being part of a criminal organisation, espionage and money laundering, which could carry a sentence of up to 25 years in jail. A trial that seeks to criminalise saving lives and solidarity according to human rights organisations. [1] On 18 November 2021, after three long years of uncertainty, court proceedings will finally start on Lesvos.

The charges are exceptionally serious but are far from uncommon as authorities across Europe continue to criminalise people and organisations that assist and support refugees and save lives (at sea and on land). In 2019, 171 individuals across 13 European states faced criminalisation [2] and between 2020 and 2021 at least 44 people in Greece faced similar accusations like those against Sarah, Seán and Nassos. [3] Criminalisation coincides with the securitisation of borders and worrying instances of pushbacks and collective expulsion, especially at sea.

The humanitarian assistance of people like Seán, Sarah and Nassos has been essential as at least 1,675 people have lost their lives or gone missing on the East Mediterranean sea since 2015.[4]Since their release from pre-trial detention, they have campaigned tirelessly against the criminalisation of solidarity and for refugee rights. If found guilty, their case could set a worrying precedent with adverse implications for humanitarian assistance far beyond Greece. Therefore XX civil society organisations stand with Sarah, Seán and Nassos and call on:

  • The Greek authorities to drop all charges against Seán, Sarah, Nassos and the other 21 charged and recognise their work as humanitarian assistance and essential for saving lives at sea.
  • Greek authorities and EU institutions to ensure that the principles of a fair trial are upheld and that independent trial monitoring will be allowed during these trials.
  • European institutions to do more to prevent criminalisation and encourage member states to include exemptions for humanitarian assistance in their national legislation whilst ensuring that those member states who have such an exemption apply them.

 11 November 2021


1. Amnesty International
2. Arsis - Association for the Social Support of Youth
3. Changemakers Lab
5. Europe Must Act
6. Jesuit Refugee Service Greece (JRS Greece)
7. Lesvos Solidarity
8. Lighthouse Relief
9. Refugee Legal Support (RLS)
10. Samos Advocacy Collective
11. Samos Volunteers
12. Save the Children
13. Second Tree
14. Still I Rise

[1] Greece: Facing jail for saving lives: Sarah Mardini and Seán Binder (Amnesty International, 14 October 2019) accessed 3 November 2021; Greece: Rescuers at Sea Face Baseless Accusations (Human Rights Watch, 5 November 2018) accessed 3 November 2021

[2] Help is No Crime: Are EU Policies Moving in the Right Direction? (Picum, October 2021) accessed 3 November 2021

[3] Greece files against 33 NGO members for assisting human traffickers (Keep Talking Greece, 8 September 2020) accessed 20 November 2020; Τέλος στη δράση ευρωπαϊκών ΜΚΟ που διευκόλυναν την διακίνηση μεταναστών από την Τουρκία στη Λέσβο (Vima Press, 8 September 2020) accessed 20 November; Hellenic Ministry of Citizen Protection ‘19-07-2021: (4) μέλη Μ.Κ.Ο. και (6) υπήκοοι τρίτων χωρών περιλαμβάνονται σε δικογραφία για οργανωμένη δράση ατόμων που δραστηριοποιούνταν στη διευκόλυνση της παράνομης εισόδου αλλοδαπών στην ελληνική επικράτεια μέσω των νησιών του Βορειοανατολικού Αιγαίου (19 July 2021) accessed 27 September 2021; Giannis Souliotis ‘Μεταναστευτικό: Βαριές διώξεις εις βάρος μελών τεσσάρων ΜΚΟ’ (Kathimerini, 20 July 2021)

[4] Missing Migrant Project (IOM) accessed 5 October 2021






Sapfous 9, Mytilene
81100, Lesvos, Greece






Panselina Agioritou 1, Mytilene
81100, Lesvos, Greece  
Tel: (+30) 22510 62000


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