By Nacho Sánchez,
On 31 December last year, a radio programme gathered several individuals and groups to spend an untypical New Year’s Eve together and to start the New Year astounded. Among other topics, Roberto Borda spoke about the situation of migrants in an irregular administrative situation such as the ones he hosts at his place. He also told that helping or hosting this group of people would probably become illegal if the draft of the reform of the Criminal Code issued by the government some weeks before was approved. “Honestly, it was something that shocked everybody. It was something which had nothing to do with the cuts, the crisis, the economic situation… It was something beyond that: introducing in the Criminal Code something that should never be there: solidarity,” explains Roberto.
He is one of the most famous faces of the platform Salvemos la Hospitalidad (Let’s save hospitality) and protagonist of the campaign’s video. It was him who launched the campaign to sign the petition on the website Change.org together with his colleagues of the organisations Asociación Apoyo and Pueblos Unidos asking the government to revise the new draft of the Criminal Code which criminalises solidarity. “We had to do something,” he recalls. In a few weeks the first objective to reach 50,000 signatures was achieved. The campaign soon won support: the initiative to present motions against the reform of the Criminal Code in city halls, provincial councils and regional parliaments, making the social rejection more official. Málaga was the first city to approve this motion and setting an example followed by other municipalities, thanks to the website www.salvemoslahospitalidad.org which 18 organisations from all over the country promote. “It is a way to join forces and make the campaign available to everybody. Anybody can present a motion,” explains Mikel Araguás, Secretary General of Andalucía Acoge, who is satisfied with the support of various organisations and political parties. “This shows that common sense doesn’t have an ideology.
The progressive elimination of the rights of undocumented migrants in Spain goes a step further with this draft, which follows the path of many other countries in the European Union, as PICUM’s reports show. This tendency is, however, “not reversible” in the words of Peio Aierbe, coordinator of the Documentation Centre Mugak of SOS Racismo. “The initial response of society in the health care area is, in this sense, hopeful,” he stresses. With www.salvemoslahospitalidad.org history repeats itself and even in city halls such as the ones of Vélez-Málaga, Sevilla, Antequera or Vila-Real motions against the reform of the Criminal Code have already been approved. “All this proves that there are people (and not a few) who don’t accept these arbitrary measures”, Aierbe points out. “We honestly didn’t expect such widespread support,” adds Roberto Borda who, like all the other organisations, encourages everyone to share the materials of the campaign on www.salvemoslahospitalidad.org and to present motions all over Spain, as well as to sign the petition of the campaign Salvemos la hospitalidad on Change.org.But what would the Criminal Code change if the reform was implemented? “There is a serious problem with article 138 bis: its wording is so vague that it allows for a lot of possibilities to punish,” explains Margarita Martínez Escamilla, professor of criminal law at the Complutense University of Madrid. A taxi driver who drives a migrant person in an irregular administrative situation, a family who invites someone to go on holidays, a legal consultation… these are actions that could be considered a crime by public prosecutors. “Maybe judges will never interpret it this way but we cannot rely on that. This bad interpretation should never be applied,” notes Martínez Escamilla.
This blog was originally published by 3500 Millones (El País) on 5 April 2013