Amnesty International sandy beach protest in support of migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers’ rights: Running order for 20 March

© Laurent Hini, for Amnesty International France


Amnesty International sandy beach protest in support of migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers’ rights: Running order for 20 March

(Brussels, 19 March 2013) Tomorrow, Thursday 20 March, between 13.00 and 13.30 (GMT+1) a sea of Amnesty International activists, supporters and employees, will gather on the shores of the European Council in Brussels. They will dump 4 tonnes of sand on the concourse (freedom of expression zone) to protest against European governments’ deplorable migration and asylum policies and practices.

Against a backdrop of a sea (a construction of 2 metres by 7 metres), they will send a SOS to European Union (EU) government leaders, urging them to do more to protect the rights and lives of migrants, refugees, and asylum-seekers arriving at Europe's borders.

Amnesty International offices across Europe will hold similar demonstrations. They will urge leaders to act now, put people before borders, and save lives.

Brussels running order:

09:30 – 12:45: Sand container arrives and transformation of Schuman concourse into a sandy beach begins

12:45 – 13:00: Amnesty International supporters and activists arrive

13:00 – 13.05: Flash-mob begins with the blowing of the international SOS code on whistles. The scene will be set with tourists enjoying sea, sand and sun. They will see the contrasting reality of the hardships and dangers experienced by migrants and asylum-seekers seeking sanctuary in Europe. This will be represented by a human sea in the sand, with protestors holding placards (please see image).

13:05 – 13:10: Remarks by Nicolas Beger, director of Amnesty International European Institutions Office (in English); Carmen Dupont, campaign coordinator (in Dutch); and Philippe Hensmans, director of Amnesty International Belgium Francophone (in French)

13:10– 13:15: Three activists read out three testimonies collected by Amnesty International (in English, Dutch and French) of migrants and asylum-seekers who have suffered human rights abuse along Europe’s borders.

13:15 – 13:20: As activists hear the sound of more SOS codes, they stand up from the beach and make a rousing call to their government leaders, telling them they can and must act now to protect rights and save lives. Flash-mob ends.

13.20 – 13.30: Part of human sea and the tourists remain with placards for additional photo opportunities.

13.30 – 14.00: The public will be encouraged to join Amnesty International’s new digital campaign to tweet a holiday postcard to their governments calling for change, using #SOSEurope. Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) running for the 2014 European elections will also be invited to pledge to put human rights at the heart of migration and asylum policies and practices, and have their photo taken doing so.

14.00 – 15.00: clean up

Nicolas Beger, director of Amnesty International’s European Institutions Office, and Carmen Dupont, migration campaign coordinator will be available for interviews throughout the day.


Amnesty International’s European campaign S.O.S. Europe works to end ineffective, inhumane and dangerous migration and asylum practices at Europe’s borders. It aims to tackle the worrying and dangerous trend whereby EU member states are favouring prevention policies and practices over protection measures.

These practices include violent push-backs along the borders, outsourcing migration control to non-EU member states with deplorable human rights records, and wide-spread detention practices. They are all in clear breach of member states’ human rights obligations.

This increase in border control measures has forced an increasing number of migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers to take dangerous routes to Europe, sometimes with fatal consequences.

The EU and member states must do more to prevent further loss of life. Instead of focusing resources on closing off borders, search and rescue operations must be increased, safe and legal routes for refugees to Europe must be created, and migration control cooperation with countries flouting human rights obligations must stop. And the European institutions must also ensure member states are meeting their human rights commitments and obligations under EU law; and hold those engaging in serious human rights violations accountable.

The European-wide protests come as EU government leaders start to define the new five year EU asylum and migration strategy; the so-called post- Stockholm Programme. This strategy will be agreed at the June European Summit. The protests also come as EU leaders meet to discuss the April EU-Africa Summit agenda. This agenda will include discussions on migration, specifically on outsourcing migration control to African countries.


Picture of a “human sea” taken during a previous S.O.S Europe action in Paris in October 2013 © Laurent Hini, for Amnesty International

For further information or to arrange an interview, please contact:

Maeve Patterson
Media and Communications
European Institutions Office
Amnesty International
Tel: +32 (0) 2 548 2773 
Mobile: +_32 (0)483 680 812
[email protected]
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