In a landmark decision, the Constitutional Council of France ruled on 6 July that Cedric Herrou farmer was not guilty of a crime when he smuggled migrants into the country because he acted under “the principle of fraternity”.
Since 2016, Cedric Herrou has helped roughly 200 migrants as they passed from Italy to France. He offered them shelter, food and basic medical assistance, and drove them accross the border to continue their journey towards Northern Europe. Before the council’s ruling, he could face jail and a fine of up to 30,000 euros for his actions.
“The principle of fraternity begets the freedom to help others for humanitarian motives, without consideration for the legality of their stay on French soil.”
The court’s decision that it is legal to offer humanitarian aid to migrants who are in France illegally constitutes a major success in the fight for decriminalizing humanitarian help. A European Citizens’ Initiative has been launched to empower a #WelcomingEurope and reclaim our right to help. You can sign the petition here.
In a statement, the council said the ruling was the first in which it found “that fraternity is a constitutional principle.” No constitutional principle guarantees foreigners the right to enter or remain in the country, and fighting illegal immigration is a legitimate government function, the court wrote. But, it added, “it is up to the legislator to reconcile the principle of fraternity and the safeguarding of public order.”
Image: Sebastien Nogier/EPA, via Shutterstock