[08.11.2021, 07:00 CET]
For Immediate Release
As the first asylum seeker ever, N., a young father, is charged with the drowning of his 6-year-old son during a shipwreck. He will be on trial together with his co-passenger Hasan, who is facing life imprisonment for steering the boat – a common practice at Europe's external borders. They will stand trial on May, 18, 2022 in Samos, Greece.
On Monday, November 8, a solidarity network launches a new campaign against the criminalization and incarceration of migrants in Greece. All information can be found on the website: www.freethesamostwo.com
November 5, 2021 – 70 groups and organizations across Europe launch a new campaign to report on the unbelievable peculiarities of this case. In addition, the campaign aims at raising attention on the increasing attempt to criminalize migrants for “boat driving” – a phenomenon that is happening throughout Europe, for example in Greece, Italy, Malta or Spain.
One year ago, N. and Hasan tried to reach Greece from Turkey on a rubber boat together with their families. They had fled Afghanistan and were seeking safety in Europe. Off the Greek island of Samos, the boat got in distress, hit against the cliffs and capsized. All passengers went overboard. Although the Greek Coast Guard was notified about the emergency, it took them several hours to arrive at the scene and then they didn’t even carry out a rescue operation. The lifeless body of N.'s son was found ashore the next morning.
Subsequently, N. was arrested for “endangering the life of his child” and now faces up to 10 years imprisonment. Hasan was instead charged with the “transportation of 24 third-country nationals into Greek territory without permission”, with the aggravating circumstances of “endangering the lives of 23” and “causing death of one”. Hasan is facing a life sentence for the death plus further 10 years imprisonment per transported person, amounting to the absurd charge of 230 years plus life sentence.
“They were really cruel to me. I lost my son. He drowned in the water. On top of that, they arrested me in that horrible situation and put me in prison. They say it is the law. This cannot be the law. This is inhumane. This must be illegal. Are they really going to blame me for the death of my son? He was everything I had. I essentially came here for my son”, says N. about the charges brought up against him.
The shipwreck and the death of N.’s son were neither the fault of N. and Hasan nor an unfortunate tragedy. They are the direct result of the European policy of deterrence.
Is this case an exception? No! While N.’s case constitutes the first of its kind, the filing of such “smuggling” charges has been systematically carried out by the Greek state to criminalize migration for several years. Immediately upon arrival, the police routinely arrest one or two persons. Most of them do not have access to proper legal defense, let alone external support. With Greek courts often punishing “smuggling” more severely than murder, this results in people who came seeking safety in Europe being put behind bars for decades.
These charges are filed despite the fact that the European Union’s policy of closed borders forces people to rely on unsafe means for transportation. As long as there are no safe and legal routes available, so-called “smugglers” are in fact often the only way for people to reach safety. On top, charging refugees themselves with “smuggling” because they steered the boat, constitutes a direct attack on the right to asylum.
“In Greece of 2020, when we have the policy of systematic pushbacks, you put one more obstacle for asylum seekers: Even if you make it here, we will criminalize you. As an asylum seeker, what can you do? The same applies to the father - should he have traveled here alone and leave his child in Turkey until the end of the procedure?”, says Dimitris Choulis, the lawyer of N. and Hassan.
The Campaign ‘Free the #Samos2’ calls for all charges against N. and Hasan to be dropped. Besides, the campaign rallies for freedom for all those imprisoned for “boat driving” all over Europe and for an end to the criminalization of migration.
Notes for Editors
Europe Must Act (EMA) is a growing grassroots movement, bringing together volunteers and NGOs to campaign for the humane, dignified and legal reception of refugees in Europe. EMA was established in March 2020 by a group of volunteers on the Greek Aegean islands of Chios and Samos in response to the ever-worsening situation of the hotspot camps. For more information about EMA, please visit www.europemustact.org/about-us.
Further comments available.
Dimitris and Mathilde, the lawyers of N. and Hassan from Human Rights Legal Project Samos as well as activists from the campaign are available for interviews.
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for requests.
Christian Schmidt, Press Coordinator, Europe Must Act