She helped stranded refugees and was fined 3,350 euros
Several hundred Danes were given thousands of euros fines because they helped stranded refugees. Lise Ramslog for example, a year ago she helped refugees with a newborn baby to Malmö and was punished for it.
September 5, 2016
On the day Lise Ramslog (70) became a people smuggler, she actually only wanted to go to an ATM. It was Monday, September 7th, 2015, a year ago, when the first wave of refugees reached Denmark.
In her little red Skoda she rode in the afternoon to the bank in Rødbyhavn, a southern port town. “Then I saw a lot of exhausted people sitting and lying along the highway,” says the Danish woman. “Not a pretty sight.”
Around 300 refugees, mostly Syrians and Iraqis, had arrived through Germany by train and ferry in Denmark. Police had halted rail traffic. In the heat then men, women and children walked on the E47 highway to the Swedish city Malmö, almost 200 kilometers away. From some crossovers xenophobes spat on them.
First Ramslog turned her car around. “I did not want to see those people. I thought, I’m going to the woods … But on the way I saw a resident talk to refugees, two couples and a young boy. They pointed to my car and said Sweden, Sweden! They showed me their railway tickets from Hamburg to Malmö. I had better bring them to the station in Maribo, I thought. That was not so far.”
She tells her story in the office of Lisbeth Zornig in Copenhagen. Zornig was children’s ombudswoman in Denmark from 2010 to 2012 and is half of a well-known detective thriller author couple with her husband, former journalist Mikael Lindholm. Like Lise Ramslog she also that September day helped hiking refugees. Both were convicted this year to a fine. This month is the appeal of Zornig and Lindholm. To nearly 160 Danes the same happened last year. This year their number is in the hundreds, appears from media reports. …
The refugee crisis came two months after the appointment of a new Liberal minority government with tacit support of the radical right-wing Danish People’s Party (DF). Strict asylum laws, translated into Arabic published in Lebanese newspapers, refugees had to be put off. Family reunification for asylum seekers is impossible in the first year, they said. The police may confiscate money and [jewelry] property as a contribution to shelter. …
In Denmark you can get up to two years in prison, or a fine, if you deliberately help ‘aliens’ across the border, transport or host them. Danes who do that are legally traffickers. In the Netherlands it is also against the law, but only if it is “for profit” or for money.
“If you offer a stranger a cup of coffee at home in Denmark or allow him or her to sit on the carrier of your bicycle, that’s criminal,” says Mikael Lindholm. Zornig: “They criminalize decency.”
Lise Ramslog does not know how the men and women in her car were called and where they came from. They did not speak each other’s language. Through the rearview mirror they smiled at each other. “They laughed when I laughed. I could see that they were afraid.” She gave them some lemonade and biscuits.
A baby under her dress
“From the back seat I heard strange noises. I looked and saw that one of the women hid something under her clothes: a newborn baby! Then I decided to bring them all the way to Copenhagen. Yes, and there I saw again signs with Sweden on them – to Malmö you just cross a toll bridge. So I just drove on.”
She is used to make mileage. Ramslog is a former professional driver, transporting flowers.
The toll was nearly 130 euros – she had just enough money in her pocket. There was no passport control. “Thank you, thank you, they kept saying when we were over the border. And, money, money. I was not sure whether they wanted money or wanted to give me money. But I said ‘No, thanks’ and gave the boy my glass brooch: a four-leaf clover. I had received it from my sister, because my daughter had died the previous year. They wanted to return the brooch, but I said, he’s still young. I hope he has more luck in life than me.”
On her way back Ramslog came across a police cordon. “I saw large white buses with refugees in them. How nice, I thought. They have arranged buses so that all those people do not have to walk. But they did not go to where they wanted to, they were deported to the ferry to Germany.”
At half past eleven at night she was finally back in her remote home in Nakskov. “My husband was worried and had called friends. I had not brought a phone. I was barefoot all the time. That’s the way I like walking in the woods.”
The next day, her husband said: “You realize you’re a smuggler? So they say on TV about people who help refugees.” Ramslog could not believe it. She put her story on Facebook. They drove back to the bank and met radio and TV journalists. “I told them what had happened. It really popped out. And that was in the news.”
Sometime later a policeman called. “You know why I call?, he said. I said it probably will not be for my speeding ticket. He asked me to make a statement. I do not know what will happen, he said. Maybe you will be prosecuted. ”
She began to worry only when she received a summons and was advised to find a lawyer. “You know what that cost? My husband and I live on 940 euros per month. I just told the judge the story myself. When the decision came, I almost fell off my chair. A fine of 3,350 euros! Since I am retired, they were so “nice” to halve the amount. They did not hang me, but just chopped my hand off.”
I do not regret it
The couple Zornig and Lindholm was fined 6,000 euros together for smuggling. Zornig that September day was also near Rødbyhavn for lecturing. They took to their beach house six refugees. Her husband later in Copenhagen put them on the train to Sweden. She was also filmed by journalists and put a photo of the group on Twitter. “Refugees Pit Stop”, she wrote.
“When people saw that, many more drove to the south with food, drinks and diapers,” says Zornig. “The police can only prosecute people who themselves told to have helped refugees, like us. And people against whom complaints were made by people who were angry about the helping. I am being sued by more than ten people, even by people from Norway and Iceland. We know their names, but we do not know them.”
Acquittal for the same offense
Last month something interesting happened. Two cohabiting women were acquitted for the same offense: a councilor of Aarhus city and a candidate for parliament. They allowed two refugees to stay overnight and bought tickets for them for the ferry to Norway. The court was not certain that they helped “aliens” “intentionally”.
Lindholm: “So it goes then with two politicians. My faith in our legal system has been considerably eroded. … A man who has got a 670 euro fine when he spat on refugees last year. And we get a 6000 euro fine? What example do we give that way?
Things turned out well with the penalty for Ramslog. The Danish jazz musician Benjamin Koppel started a crowd-fund action for Zornig and Lindholm. In a short time he raised nearly 22,000 euros. That also paid Ramslog’s fine. But they still can not tell the story without tears. “I have no regrets and I’m not angry. I just can not understand and do not accept that I’m convicted of something I do not consider to be criminal.” …
If Ramslog goes to the shops, she always passes a refugee center. “There is no bus. If people want to buy something, they have to walk five kilometers. But if I drive along, they know they can get a ride. They are very grateful. I simply will keep doing it. And that is not illegal, because those people have papers.”
This is a jazz music video by Marie Carmen Koppel & Benjamin Koppel – Cause It Reminds Me Of You.