German activists have called for ordinary people to help migrants to cross Europe by giving them lifts in their own cars.
The Berlin-based initiative claims to be based on the West Germans who smuggled people out of the communist East in the boots of their cars during the Cold War.

In a slickly produced online campaign, the Berlin-based activists encourage people to seek out migrants on Europe’s roadsides and give them lifts to the destination of their choice.

One video shows a couple giving a migrant a lift into Austria at a remote border crossing high in the Alps.
Helping undocumented migrants cross the border is a criminal offence in most European countries.
But the Peng-Collective, the group of activists and artists behind the initiative, claim it is a justified act of civil disobedience.

“The people who are fleeing under life-threatening conditions, for example across the Mediterranean to Europe, are being stripped of their freedom of movement … in the heart of our liberal Europe,” they say on the website.
“Can it be just to restrict people’s most basic freedoms on the basis of their nationality? Who actually decides who deserves a better life and who doesn’t?”

The website gives practical advice on where to find migrants, how to avoid attracting police attention, and legal tips on escaping prosecution for trafficking.
It advises those attempting to drive migrants for the first time to stick to travel within the border-free Schengen Area, where there is less risk of being stopped. But it also speaks of a need for drivers to bring migrants from Greece, which has no land border with another Schengen state, across the Balkans to western Europe.

The initiative is named Fluchthelfer.in, after the Fluchthelfer, or Escape Helpers, who smuggled people out of communist East Germany.

West Germans were allowed to drive through the East to West Berlin on certain roads, and the Fluchthelfer smuggled people out hidden in the boots of their cars.

Some of those who were caught served long sentences in East German prisons.
But the activists argue a similar fate is unlikely today.

“In most cases, even if Fluchthelfer are caught, it is likely they will escape punishment, or at most get a fine,” the website says.
It warns drivers to take only one migrant at a time, and not to accept any money, in order to escape prosecution for trafficking.

To avoid any suspicion, it recommends carrying little or no cash, and paying for petrol by credit card.