Sarah Mardini and Seán Binder

On trial for saving lives

In Greece, you can go to prison for trying to save a life. It happened to Sarah Mardini and Seán Binder when, as trained rescuers, they volunteered for a search-and-rescue organisation in Lesvos.

Their job was to help spot boats in distress at sea and help refugees. But Sarah and Seán ended up behind bars charged with spying, people smuggling and belonging to a criminal organisation. They spent more than 100 days in prison before being released on bail in December 2018. If found guilty, they could be jailed for 25 years.

Seán, now in Ireland, says the scariest thing about the situation ‘is not that it put me in jail, it’s that this can happen to anyone’. This is what happens when governments criminalise people who try to help refugees rather than doing more to protect a refugee’s right to find a safe place to live.

‘What’s scary, is not that it has put me in jail without trial, or that I still face 25 years in prison, it’s that this can happen to anyone because states don't adhere to existing laws that protect humanitarianism.’ 
Seán Binder

Solidarity message


Sarah and Seán
C/O Amnesty International
Europe Regional Office
1 Easton Street, London WC1X 0DW


Sarah: English, Arabic
Seán: English, German

Suggested message (keep short):

Sarah and Seán would like solidarity to be directed to refugee support organisations in your area, and/or in Greece.

Can I:

  • Send a religious card or message? No
  • Send an Amnesty card or mention Amnesty? Yes
  • Include my name and address? Yes

Send an appeal letter

Tell the Greek authorities to drop all charges against Sarah Mardini and Seán Binder.

Write to:

Minister of Citizens' Protection
Michalis Chrisochoidis
Twitter: @chrisochoidis

Salutation: Dear Minister


  1. Greek authorities should drop the charges.
  2. Greek authorities should make public statements acknowledging the legitimacy of humanitarian action and the activities carried out by people acting in defence of refugee and migrant rights.

More information:

  • Do not refer to them as heroes or represent them in a heroic manner
  • Do not focus on Sarah’s past and story of flight and arrival in 2015
  • Do not refer/ ask questions about Sarah’s family members
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