Pensioner to fight conviction for helping cold asylum seeker over border

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By Olivia Churchill
Pensioner to fight conviction for helping cold asylum seeker over border
Copyright  Image by Sang Hyun Cho from Pixabay   -   Churchill, Olivia

A 73-year-old woman is to appeal a conviction and 800 Swiss francs (€735) fine for helping a homeless Afghan asylum seeker across the border from Italy in freezing conditions.

Anni Lanz met the man in a removal centre in Basel, where he was suffering from significant psychological problems after the reported death of his wife and child. 

Medical reports given to Swiss authorities suggested he should be allowed to stay in the country with his sister,  but Swiss authorities had deported him back to Italy.

Lanz, who has been involved in refugee rights for the last 34 years, heard that the man did not have a place to stay in Italy and was sleeping rough in temperatures as low as minus 10 degrees near the Swiss border.

The Federal Aliens Law in Switzerland prohibits the assistance of irregular entry into the country, but the penalties do not take into account whether the individual has assisted for profit.

Maria Serrano, Amnesty International’s Senior Campaigner on Migration, said: “Anni Lanz has done nothing wrong and committed no crime. By driving across the border to help a young and traumatized man who had been forced to sleep rough in sub-zero temperatures, she showed compassion, not criminality.

“The conviction against Anni should be overturned and legislation in Switzerland amended so it no longer punishes good Samaritans for acts of solidarity.

“Dragging her before the court on absurd charges makes a mockery of justice. Efforts by individuals and NGOs to help people seeking safety should be lauded and defended, not criminalised.”