Armed with thermoses of hot tea and the belief that their own humanity would be diminished if they left pregnant women, children and men young and old to fend for themselves, the Alpine helpers are a counter-argument to populist politicians with large followings in Europe who say migrants, particularly Muslims and Africans, are threatening European livelihoods and liberal traditions.

From the inky night, two women loomed. Police? The wary migrants, crossing the high-altitude Alpine border clandestinely from Italy to France, couldn’t be sure. They scattered and ran, reported the AP.

In fact, the women wanted to help the Moroccans evade border patrols, not detain them. They distributed hand-warmers to the shivering migrants, helped them hide in snowy woods until the coast was clear, and then steered them to waiting cars that whisked them from the frozen peaks to a warm shelter.

“They treated us like humans,” said Hamid Saous, among the rescued. “Not everyone does that.”

As Europe erects ever more fearsome barriers against migration, volunteers working along the Italy-France border to keep migrants from being killed or maimed by cold and mountain mishaps are driven by a simple creed: The exiles from conflict zones and oppression of all kinds who trek through the Alps and onward to European cities in search of brighter futures are people, first and foremost.

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