Helena Maleno poses for the photo on the stairs of her house, on Tuesday January 9 in the Moroccan city of Tangier
Human rights organizations and dozens of personalities supported the Spanish Helena Maleno, who was investigated in Morocco for human trafficking in relation to her work to prevent the wreck of migrants in the Strait of Gibraltar.
The 47-year-old activist, who for years has been helping emergency services to locate migrants in difficulties at sea, was to appear at 11 am local time (10h GMT) Wednesday before a judge in Tangier, northern Morocco, where she resides for 15 years working with the association Walking Borders.
„It seems incredible to me that a person who has saved so many lives, who is so dedicated,“ should be investigated, Miguel Jesús Zea Gandolfo, head of Maritime Rescue in the Andalusian city of Almería, told AFP.
„We affirm our total solidarity and support for Helena Maleno,“ says a petition signed by some 200 personalities, including actor Javier Bardem and writer Almudena Grandes, in favor of the „defense of the right to life“ and rejection of „the criminalization „of their work. In Amnesty International they say they are „very concerned about it“.
In Spain, the police sent a report to the prosecutor’s office stating that she was suspected of working for a „criminal organization“ by transmitting the location of the migrants to Salvage Maritime, with a view to their transfer to Spanish coasts. But, in April 2017, the prosecution decided to provisionally file the case because it did not assess an offense.
The report was transmitted to the Moroccan justice system, without specifying that it had been filed in Spain, according to Maleno, who will appear before an investigating judge for migrant smuggling, a crime that could lead to a prison sentence. Asked by the AFP, the police declined to comment on the case.
– ‚Stop these deaths‘ –
Helena Maleno poses for the photo on a terrace of her house, on Tuesday, January 9 in the Moroccan city of Tangier
According to Zea, thanks to Maleno „more than 10,000 people“ have been rescued off the coast of Almeria. In 2017, 223 migrants died trying to reach Spain by sea, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
The Church has given its support and the Catholic organization Cáritas tries to mediate in its favor before the Moroccan authorities. Maleno posted on his Twitter account a video of the Tangier cathedral full of migrants praying for her on Tuesday.
Since 2007, this activist has served as an intermediary for the families of migrants to learn their fate before the Spanish authorities after crossing the strait.
Little by little, his phone number and that of his team at Caminando Fronteras were spreading. The immigrants call from the desert or from their boat to give it its approximate location. She in turn transmits it to the authorities to facilitate her rescue.
Expert in migrations, Maleno usually participates in international colloquiums and his publications are appreciated by his colleagues, according to French sociologist and expert in migrations Olivier Peyroux.
His oenegé defends his case before the courts, as in the case of Tarajal’s drama, when 15 migrants drowned in front of the Spanish city of Ceuta on February 6, 2014, under the fire of rubber balls from the Civil Guard that could have played a role in his death.
Daughter of day laborers, Maleno grew up in the shade of large greenhouses of fruits and vegetables in El Ejido, in the Andalusian province of Almería.
The name of his hometown is also known for the racist riots against Maghrebi immigrants that occurred in February 2000, which left 80 injured after a double murder.
Since then, this graduate in journalism has not ceased to denounce the „business“ around migrants: the one that results from immigration control, trafficking in clandestine, undeclared work, organ trafficking and prostitution.
„They are slaves and not citizens, expelled from the rule of law,“ the black-haired brunette, who is sometimes dyed with henna, told AFP.
On Tuesday, he congratulated the AFP for the solidarity around his work, since „everyone has started talking about the right to life, Europe wants to show us that immigration control is more important, but it is false“ . „We have the means to stop all these deaths.“