When migrants are drifting at risk on the sea near Gibraltar, they know who to call: Helena Maleno's number is always available, and she puts the Spanish Sea Rescue Service in the picture as quickly as possible.
Those calls have saved hundreds of people over recent years, but now it's Maleno herself who is at risk: she has been summoned to declare in court at Tangier, Morocco, as part of an international investigation into human trafficking. After several delays, she is to declare on the 10th of January.
On the 27th of December many people came together in Iruñea, Navarre, to express their solidarity with Maleno, having been called together by several anti-racist groups. As the organizers explained, the persecution she is being subjected to is not an isolated event: "They're trying to turn solidarity into a crime".
This has not been the only initiative taken in recent weeks. Hundreds of well-known people and thousands of people involved in Spain have signed a manifesto in her support. In the Basque Country, the person commissioned to defend citizens' rights, the Ararteko, has got in touch with his Moroccan counterpart "to express the interest which many Basque groups have in the work which Maleno is carrying out on the southern border".
Who is Helena Maleno?
Helena Maleno (El Ejido, Almeria, 1970) is a member of the Caminando Fronteras ('Walking Frontiers') groups, a journalist and an activist. The group has carried out considerable work over recent years, having direct contact with migrants on the frontier between Spain and Morocco and giving them assistance. In that way, they have won the trust of people fleeing from their own countries, and who then get in touch with them when they run into difficulties crossing the sea.
“I've gone to sleep and woken up to those calls for help for 16 of my 20 years, and it may become a crime now”, said her son in a letter to the media. The Moroccan justice department accuses Maleno of promoting hidden immigration.
The journalist explains, though, that the investigation actually began in Spain in 2012, but the only evidence they have is those calls to the Sea Rescue Service. Maleno has received threats because of her work in the past. She was send many threats and messages because of denouncing the Spanish police's aggression at the Tarajal frontier.
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