Helena Maleno, an expert in migration and spokeswoman for the NGO Caminando Fronteras, is being investigated for "aiding and abetting illegal immigration." More than 200 film personalities, politicians and journalists have signed a manifesto in her support.
Helena Maleno, an expert in migration and spokeswoman for the Tangier-based NGO, Caminando Fronteras, has been investigated by Moroccan authorities.
The activist is accused of "aiding and abetting illegal immigration" for her work in alerting the Spanish Coast Guard about migrant boats in difficulty during crossings from the Moroccan coasts to the Spanish coasts.
According to Caminando Fronteras, the inquiry comes after "attacks, aggression and threats" against Maleno.
Online campaign #DefendiendoAMelano
In recent days, a solidarity campaign on Twitter with the hashtag #DefendiendoAMelano has gathered thousands of supporters, including actor Javier Bardem.
Helena Maleno has worked for years aiding migrants crossing the Strait of Gibraltar. Migrants would call Maleno, who would then gather information about them and pass it on to Spanish Maritime Rescue, an organization dependent on the Spanish Industry Ministry, or to the Moroccan authorities.
Caminando Fronteras says it has saved the lives of hundreds of migrants trying to reach Spain by sea. It is among the NGOs most active in denouncing so-called "hot returns" – immediate rejection at the borders of Spanish enclaves Ceuta and Melilla, which are allowed by Spanish law but have been condemned by the European Court of Human Rights.
Family members of migrants who died on February 6, 2014 at the Ceuta border after being forced back by the Civil Guard reportedly contacted Maleno so that the bodies could be identified and so that a judicial investigation would be conducted.