“Freedom is a necessary requirement for justice”, stated German president Joachim Gauck in his inaugural speech. As long as the iron curtain existed, it was consensus among Western politicians that the right to freely cross borders was a crucial element of a democratic society. But the people who are fleeing today, across the Mediterranean Sea and under deadly conditions, seem not to be entitled to this right. In fact, the so-called Dublin II regulation even prevents refugees and migrants from moving around within our free and democratic Europe once they have reached it. Can it be just to restrict people’s most basic freedoms only on the basis of their nationality? Who actually decides, which person deserves a better life, and which person does not? In East Germany there were people who illegally helped persons flee to the West. Today, the work of these ‘escape agents’ is considered honorable and just. How will today’s flight helpers be judged in 25 years? Flight facilitation remains legitimate, and indeed indispensable for a free and just society, wherever people are reduced in their freedom of movement. This is especially true for a free and just society, like the EU wants to become. “Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves” (Abraham Lincoln). As escape agents you can help to make a free society become reality. Within the Schengen Area this does not carry any significant risk and is even relatively easy to do. We know many people who have helped people flee out of their country. But we also know of many ministries and police agencies that are rattling their sabres to prevent this. But this is not a game. For some refugees it is a matter of life and death.
Escape aid within the EU is nothing new. There are many people who have already supported friends or family to migrate through the EU. For us, escape aid is more than a favour among friends. For us, flight facilitation is a political statement in support of the freedom of movement and a powerful example of civil disobedience. In order for flight facilitations to run smoothly, they should be well prepared. Within the Schengen area, there are no border controls - at least not officially. Migration routes within the Schengen area are thus particularly suited for flight facilitation beginners. However, spot checks within border areas exist as attempts to prevent flight facilitations. Should flight facilitators be caught several times in their attempts to provide important assistance to refugees and migrants, states may mobilise heavy sanctions against them, including legal procedures against human trafficking or surveillance of your means of communication. This is why we would like to give you some tips on how to make flight facilitations as safe as possible for yourself and the people whose migration you are supporting.
Escape aid doesn’t only just require good preparation, but also the right gear. The following items can help to conduct illegalised border crossings.
By the way: for a small donation that will go towards campaign costs and a legal aid fund for escape agents, we can prepare this starter kit for you - check out the Crowdfunding section.
In 1977, the German Supreme Court took a morally correct decision: whoever helped refugees “to fulfill their right to freedom of movement, is guided by motives that should be approved of, and is not engaging in morally objectionable behaviour.” Today however, escape agents have become criminalised within the EU. Conducting escape aid today means engaging in civil disobedience. As escape aid is currently not necessary legal (but morally legitimate) within the EU, we would like to mention here the possible consequences that can arise from conducting escape aid. The legal situation is similar in most EU-countries. For escape agents to be legally pursued, it is necessary practically everywhere to have engaged in escape aid repeatedly, and in exchange for actual or promised goods or services. Theoretically, even any assistance supporting illegal entry can be considered as a crime, however we assume that morally motivated escape agents, who are caught are not prosecuted, at least if it was their first time.
On the European level, escape aid is governed by the Council Directive 2002/90/EC of 28 November 2002 “defining the facilitation of unauthorised entry, transit and residence”. In particular Article 1 is relevant for escape aid.
In Germany, Escape Aid is governed in the Law of Residence, Employment and Integration of Foreigners (Residence Law), in particular §§ 95 ff. Escape aid is governed in particular in § 96. Furthermore § 27 StGB for aiding to escape aid may be relevant.
In Austria, § 114 and § 120 paragraph 3 of the Aliens' Police Act are relevant for the conduction of escape aid.
If you were/are an escape agent, you are eligible for the European Cross of Merit. Your support aid is as honourable as the escape agents in the former German Democratic Republic. So, if you have conducted escape aid, tell us, and recieve a Cross of Merit. Please note, that the contact form is not encrypted. If you plan to conduct further escape aid, we recommend to send us an email which is encrypted by PGP or to contact us over the encrypt.to-form. If possible even set up a separate, anonymous email address, so that the metadata doesn’t leave a trace of your identity. This also applies if you would like to become an escape agent and would like to contact us for further questions. Or if you got caught and would like to approach the legal aid fund. For the award ceremony of the Cross of Merit we recommend sending a personal representative which can collect the Cross of Merit on your behalf. This makes it very hard for the state to make you liable for your escape aid operation.