Sunday, June 27, 2021

He Saved 31 People at Sea. Then Got a 142-Year Prison Sentence.

 When Hanad Abdi Mohammad grabbed the wheel of a foundering smuggling boat off the Aegean island of Lesbos in December, he said he was scared but determined to save himself and the other 33 people on board.

The New York Times

Six months later, Mohammad, 28, from Somalia, is in a prison on the Greek island of Chios after receiving a 142-year sentence for human smuggling.

A copy of the ruling from the Lesbos criminal court, dated May 13 and seen by The New York Times, said Mohammad had been sentenced to a total of 142 years and 10 days in prison for illegally smuggling migrants into Greece. But it added that he would serve a total of 20 years, the maximum allowed under Greece’s criminal code.

Mohammad is one of several asylum-seekers in recent months to have received long prison terms for trafficking or facilitating illegal entry despite arguing that they were just seeking safety, according to human rights groups. The groups have identified dozens of such cases over the past few years, although it is difficult to arrive at an exact number.

According to legal experts and rights groups, the practice of putting migrants on trial for smuggling began around the time of the migration crisis of 2015-16, when more than 1 million refugees streamed through Greece, overwhelming its resources. The practice has intensified as Greece hardened its migration policy in recent years and the European Union doubled down on deterrence, they say.

Greece, for its part, defends itself, saying that its courts are fair and that it has an obligation to guard its borders.

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