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Helena Maleno

Helena Maleno

Caminando Fronteras
BBC - Article

"We cannot create a precedent whereby those who protect people have police investigations mounted against them. We cannot open the door to the idea that people who call to save people from drowning at sea should be imprisoned."

" We are all in the same boat. We are together because we want to build a different world. Today it's about you, tomorrow it will be about us, because we are all in the same boat and if this sinks, we are all sinking". 

Helena Maleno is a journalist and researcher who has been living in Morocco for the last 14 years, where she denounces human rights violations taking place on the southern Spanish border and works with the migrant communities in the defense of their rights. Helena uses social networks daily to alert and search for drifting boats and facilite the operations of maritime rescue services. She is an expert in migration and human-trafficking with a focus on women's and children's rights. Her human rights work has been recognized internationally and she has received numerous awards, including the Human Rights Award "Nacho de la Mata" (2015) granted by the General Council of Spanish Lawyers, the Human Rights Award of the Human Rights Association of Spain (2018), the MacBride Peace Prize (2018), awarded by International Peace Bureau, and Premio Pimentel Fonseca (2019). The ongoing criminalisation process confronted by Helena Maleno in Morocco has been denounced by UN human rights experts, including the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders and the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.

Caminando Fronteras - context pic

The conditions of HRDs working on issues related to migrants and refugees have become more challenging in recent years. In 2015, the Spanish government granted border guards the authority to execute summary expulsions of migrants from Ceuta and Melilla to Morocco. This allowed the authorities to return around 100 migrants to Morocco after they crossed the border of the Spanish Ceuta without verification whether they were eligible for asylum. The law was not amended despite a decision of the European Court of Human Rights condemning this practice.


Interview with Helena Malena of Caminando Fronteras - by Mundo Negro