Drop the charges against N. & Hasan!
Drop the charges against N. & Hasan!
On the Greek islands, the politics of criminalization and deterrence of refugees is escalating: in an unprecedented move, 25 years old N. 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, 23 years old, who is facing life imprisonment for steering the boat – a common practice at Europe's external borders. They will stand trial on 18 of May 2022 in Samos, Greece.
On the night of 7 November 2020, N. and Hasan tried to reach Greece from Turkey on a rubber boat together with 22 other people. Among the passengers were N.'s 6-year-old son and the sister, brother, and disabled mother of Hasan. The families had fled Afghanistan and were seeking safety and a better life in Europe.
Off the Greek island of Samos, the boat got into 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. Survivors testified that they twice saw a coast guard boat approach but it did not rescue them. In the morning hours of the next day, N.'s little boy and a 9-month pregnant woman were found on the rocks. Luckily, the woman survived. For N.'s son, all help had come too late.
Devastated about the death of his only child and he himself nearly drowning just before, 25-year-old N. was arrested. He was put in pre-trial detention and, as the first asylum seeker ever, charged with "endangering the life of his child", facing up to ten years imprisonment.
N.: “If you ask me why I came to Greece and decided to come in this dangerous way, I came here, because my son's life was in danger in Turkey. Because of that, I had to come. I had no other choice. But now Greek law tells me that it is my fault and says that I’m a criminal. Which father would do this to his child”.
23-year-old Hasan was also arrested. Because he steered the boat at some point during the journey, he is charged with the “transportation of 24 third-country nationals into Greek territory without permission” (smuggling), with the aggravating circumstances of “endangering the lives of 23“ and “causing the death of one” - N's son. He is facing 10 years per transported person plus a life sentence for the death of one person, amounting to 230 years plus life imprisonment.
Hasan: “This must end. I am the caretaker of my family and I have to support them because my mother is paralyzed, I have a sister that is very young and my brother has psychological problems. I really need to be with them. Their only caretaker is me. And now, because of this boat driver story, I just don’t know what I should do.”
The charges against Hasan are filed despite him traveling with his sister, brother, and their disabled mother who relies on a wheelchair, and the other passengers, including N., stating that Hasan is one of them and simply took the wheel because someone had to.
While N.’s case constitutes the first of his kind, the “smuggling” charges brought against Hasan have been systematically used by the Greek state to criminalize migration for several years.
Dimitris Choulis, lawyer: "By doing this, we criminalize asylum seekers that have no alternative. There is a part during the journey where the only thing they can do is to drive the boat in order to save their lives."
The shipwreck of 07 November 2020 was neither N.’s nor Hasan’s fault. They are the direct result of the EU's ever-increasing closure of borders, forcing people to risk their lives and those of their families.
N. and Hasan are being used as scapegoats to divert attention from the EU’s responsibilities. They are not guilty but victims of an ever-increasing policy of deterrence and criminalization that hampers their right to freedom of movement
In its attempt to prevent people from coming to Europe by any means, the EU is resorting to ever more cruel and absurd measures.
- All charges against N. and Hasan to be dropped;
- The travel ban on N. to be lifted so that he can travel to his sister in Austria and find some consolation;
- Freedom for all those imprisoned for “boat driving” despite the fact that there is no alternative to reach the European Union;
- An end to the criminalization of migration and the incarceration of people on the move.