From the Mediterranean to the prison, refugees are being turned into smugglers

People in masks and orange life jackets crammed into the boat

After a while, the smugglers leave the boat with the refugees because they know they are facing severe penalties (Photo Alliance / RELATED PRESS / Bruno Thevenin)

“I lost my son. He drowned in the sea. In this terrible situation, they arrested me and put me in jail.

N. looks at the camera, then at the floor. Wearing a neon yellow shirt, shoulders tilted forward. A year and a half ago, N. escaped from Afghanistan via Turkey to Greece. A single father took his child with him. Together with 23 other refugees, they traveled across the Mediterranean. The coast of the Greek island of Samos is rocky in some places, making it impossible to moor in these places. When a boat with refugees crashed on one of the rocks just outside the island, everyone sailed. It was dark, around midnight. N. could not see his son.

“The coast guard came, they were there for two hours. We screamed, so cautiously. Then they turned on their lights and stopped, but they didn’t help anyone to get out of the water. “

All who survived the shipwreck survived on the rocks in front of Samos. Six-year-old N.’s son sank at sea.

Accused of fleeing the sea in Greece

The video N. talks about is from the “Liberate Samos 2” campaign. 70 human rights organizations are campaigning for N.’s unwillingness to publish his name. After all, the prosecutor wants to prosecute him for the accident that took place on November 7, 2020, which resulted in the death of the child. When N. went to the police the next day to report to the Greek Coast Guard about the failure to provide assistance, the police detained him. He has since been charged with threatening a child.

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“He is accused of endangering his child while fleeing the Mediterranean and is responsible for his death. This is the first time an asylum seeker has been accused of doing so in Greece.

Dimitrios Choulis represents a large number of migrants who have been charged in arriving in Greece. However, this case sets a precedent.

“If convicted, it would mean that any refugee who takes their child to flee across the Mediterranean could be prosecuted for endangering the child’s well-being.

Escape with children would then be punished. N. faces up to ten years in prison. His client has fared badly since the shipwreck, Choulis says. The father hardly speaks and struggles with psychological problems. His case will be heard in Samos on May 18th. Dimitrios Choulis believes that the Greek law enforcement authorities have misjudged this allegation.

“I do not think the Greek authorities expected the case to fall to their feet. Because usually when they blame refugees, there is no one out there who can do anything.

Refugees in a refugee camp in Lesvos

Refugees who flew a boat in search of protection accused of smugglers on arrival (Photo Alliance / NurPhoto – Nicolas Economou)

One defendant faces life imprisonment and 230 years in prison

However, a father who may be held responsible for the death of his child while fleeing is reported in the Greek and international media. The events of that night raise many questions: why at about 1:30 p.m. Greek coastguards did not start rescue operations when they arrived at the scene of the disaster? Why did she leave again, despite screaming people on the rocks at sea? Issues that are unlikely to be resolved in court. The defendants are the father of a dead boy and Hassan, who drove the boat.

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“Hassan, who was driving the boat, has a very big problem. He faces life imprisonment and 230 years in prison.

In N.’s case, Dimitrios Choulis hopes the Samos court will not want to set a precedent that criminalizes a father for the death of a child while trying to escape. In the second case, the probability is low. Hassan’s sentence would meet …

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