Trials against refugees in the Mediterranean: Up to 187 years in prison

Trials against refugees in the Mediterranean: Up to 187 years in prison

The Greek judiciary is taking action against refugees. The accusation: smuggling. They are also said to be responsible for the drowning of passengers.

Looking out to sea, you can see a Greek Coast Guard ship and a refugee boat in the distance

Deployment of the Greek Coast Guard – here in July 2021 off the island of Samos Photo: Bradley Secker/laif

BERLIN taz | Once acquitted, once 1.5 years on probation: With a comparatively mild verdict ended on Wednesday Greek island of Samos a trial against the Afghan refugees N., 25, and Hasan, 23.

On November 7, 2020, the two tried to get from Turkey to Greece with 22 people on a rubber boat. Among the passengers were N’s six-year-old son, as well as Hasan’s sister, brother and mother. The boat collided ahead samos with cliffs and capsized, all occupants fell into the water. The shipwrecked were only rescued after hours, but not N’s son – he drowned, his body was later washed up on the shore.

N. and Hasan were arrested and the father was accused of “endangering the welfare of the child”. He faced ten years imprisonment. Hasan testified to police that he steered the boat part of the way. The judiciary therefore accused him of “unauthorized transport of third-country nationals”, “endangering” the 23 other inmates and the death of the drowned six-year-old. He was threatened with 10 years imprisonment for each person transported, i.e. a total of 230 years plus “life imprisonment” for the death of the child.

After a brief hearing on Wednesday, N. was acquitted of the charge of endangering the welfare of the child. Hassan received a 17-month suspended sentence.

The trial was one of several similar cases in Greece in recent weeks. The allegation is the same in all cases: The accused are said to have steered boats – as passengers, without payment – ​​in which they and others went to Greece to apply for asylum. They are accused of smuggling, and some are also blamed for other refugees drowning when the boats got into distress. Huge penalties are threatened.

Draconian Penalties

The trial against two men who are said to have steered a boat with 180 refugees through Greek sovereign waters on May 3, 2021 also begins on Thursday in Kalamata, southwest of Athens. The group was actually on its way to Italy because some of the inmates had already been picked up by the Greek police at sea the week before and, according to their own statements, had been thrown into the water.

However, when they tried to escape again, the engine failed. The boat was towed to Kalamata by the Greek Coast Guard and several people were arrested. Two of them have now been charged. One of the accused, a Syrian named Ibrahim, is arguing, according to the NGO Alarm Phone from having steered the boat.

The NGO criticizes the Greek judiciary: “The judgments are made in a short time, the penalties are draconian,” it said in a statement. “Without sufficient evidence, people are usually arrested upon arrival and held in custody for months.” When their case finally makes it to court, the hearing lasts an average of just 38 minutes and results in an average sentence of 44 years and fines of over 370,000 euros, the calculated Borderline Europe, which documents these processes.

Popular tool of the Greek police

At a similar trial against the Afghans Kheiraldin A., Abdallah J. and Mohamad B. on May 5 on the island of Syros, the penalties were extremely high. The three had steered a ship with 80 people in the Aegean on Christmas Eve 2021. After an engine failure, it capsized and 18 people drowned. The alleged “captain” Kheiraldin A. was sentenced to 187 years in prison for “assisting in illegal entry” and the two helpers were each sentenced to 126 years in prison.

According to the German NGO Borderline Europe, it is now the norm for the Greek police to arrest one or two refugees per boat as alleged smugglers. “Most do not have access to adequate legal counsel, let alone outside support,” Borderline said in a statement. “In Greece, ‘smuggling’ is punished more severely than murder, leading to people there ending up behind bars for decades.”

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