24 Volunteers on Trial for Heroically Rescuing Migrants Off Greek Coast

Group of 24 volunteers, including sarah mardini, seã¡n binder, nasos karakitsos, pieter wittenberg, and mohamed abdi, have gone on trial in greece more than four years after their arrest for carrying out migrant rescue missions off the coast of the greek island of lesbos. the volunteers were accused of collecting information about refugee flows from the turkish coast to the greek islands of lesbos and samos, as well as providing direct assistance to organised trafficking groups. sarah mardini and her sister yusra had famously helped save others on board the boat they were travelling on in 2015.

Trial opened and was adjourned until friday, more than four years after sarah mardini and her group were arrested in 2018. the incident had occurred off the coast of the greek island of lesbos, which had been facing an influx of migrants and refugees, prompting the european union to make a deal with turkey to close off the sea crossing. greece had also been accused of using pushbacks to forcibly send dinghies back to turkey.

Mardini and her group had only wanted to help migrants and refugees with medical assistance, water and a blanket when they arrived in greece. yusra mardini went on to make history as part of the first olympic refugee team at the 2016 rio olympics, and sarah mardini’s story was portrayed in a movie about her escape from syria with her sister released in 2022. a 2021 european parliament report highlighted sarah mardini’s first rescue had taken place in 2015. dozens of ngos and a group of european parliament members have called on the government in athens to drop the case, insisting that the need to ensure that search and rescue is permitted and that people have the right to seek asylum must be upheld.


By Evey Lovelace

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