ONE MORE ACQUITTAL SHOWS THE DRAMATIC CONSEQUENCES OF THE CRIMINALISATION OF REFUGEES ENTERING IN EU TERRITORY

On May 19, 2022, the Single-Member Criminal Court of Appeal of Kalamata acquitted two Syrian nationals of the criminal charges imposed whilst entering the Greek territory, one of them defended by RSA lawyers. More specifically the refugees have been charged of a) being the captain of a vessel transferring into Greece third-country nationals from abroad who do not have the right to enter the Greek territory (1st accused) and of b) being an accomplice in transferring into Greece third-country nationals from abroad who do not have the right to enter the Greek territory (2nd accused). The Court also acquitted them for the accusations of illegal entry in Greece. Furthermore, the Court had declared guilty three Syrian nationals who were absent in the hearing for complicity in transferring into Greece third-country nationals from abroad who do not have the right to enter the Greek territory and convicted them to 364 years of imprisonment and a big fine.

Serious gaps and irregularities in the pre-trial and investigative procedure

This decision is particularly important as the hearing brought to light major irregularities, serious gaps, omissions and faults of the pre-trial and investigative procedure, which resulted in the prosecution and pre-trial detention of the two accused for one year and, of course, the conviction of the three accused who were absent from the hearing. In particular, the non compliance with procedural guarantees during pre-trial and interrogation proceedings, the lack of adequate interpretation, the irregularities in the collection and evaluation of evidence e.t.c. characterized the fast-track/summary pre-trial proceedings, quite common in similar cases, which lead to the above prosecution.

The judgment of acquittal though, should serve as a precedent for putting an end to a series of systematic violations of the rule of law and the application of summary proceedings against the weakest and in this case against refugees. At the risk of their lives, refugees are forced to seek the obvious, that is, a safe haven, asylum in a Europe which, by invoking its border security, denies protection and safe access to its territories, exposing thousands of people to danger. In this context, refugees are perceived and treated as ‘perpetrators’ for “illegal entry” or even “common criminals’ for carriers’ liability, facing serious accusations involving hundreds of years convictions without being taking into account their state of emergency and/or the particular circumstances provided by international, EU and national law and exempting them from penalties.   

The case of N.S, single-father pretrial detained for one year and deprived from his two minor children 

RSA lawyers defended Mr N.S who was the 2nd accused in the trial and acquitted by the Court for being an accomplice in transferring into Greece third-country nationals from abroad who do not have the right to enter the Greek territory. Mr N.S is a refugee from Syria, who arrived as a single-father with his two minor children (of 8 and 9 years old) and who has been singled-out and accused by the Greek authorities according to the problematic and summary pre-trial proceedings, while even his parenthood has been questioned.

 Mr N.S was forced to leave Syria and flee to Turkey with his minor children after the tragic death of his first wife and mother of his children by a bomb blast near the city of Idlib. Obviously, their lives and freedom were in danger due to the raging civil war also because of the political beliefs attributed to him, due to his refusal to serve as a soldier in Syrian army and on the other hand to join the opposition groups and turn either in one case or another against his compatriots. Due to the lack of effective protection in Turkey and with the assistance of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, his family was selected for a resettlement program for Canada without though a successful completion. Therefore, he decided to leave Turkey and seek protection in an EU country.

 On 3/5/2021 they arrived at Kalamata rescued from an impending shipwreck. On 6/5/2021  Mr N.S was arrested for reasons he never understood, as being accused of complicity in the transfer of persons to Greece and then he was detained until his release, following the acquittal decision.

Mr N.S I applied for asylum in Greece, for him and his children. The children were recognized as refugees in Greece following his initial application, as the file was separated for procedural reasons, since he was a detainee and he is still an asylum seeker waiting for his decision.

It should be noted that the Prosecutor of the Court of First Instance of Kalamata acted as Temporary Guardian and took care of the minor children, due to Mr N.S’ arrest and detention and their mandatory separation, in combination with the absence of another relative in Greece to take care of them. The children were placed in a foster family and they were put by the Prosecutor under the protection of the Organization “METADRASI – ACTION FOR IMMIGRATION AND DEVELOPMENT in Greece.

Regarding his minor children, it is emphasized that it was the first time that they separated from their father after the tragic loss of their mother in 2015. All three of them have faced many difficult situations all these years as Syrian nationals in Turkey but they were never experienced a separation. However, despite the above difficulties due to Mr N.S’ detention, it was possible for them to communicate for the entire period, at Mr N.S’ request to the Prosecutor. Ensuring the best interests of his minor children and preserving their normal mental state and care was and is Mr N.S’ major concern.

Pursuant to the acquittal of the Single-Member Criminal Court of Kalamata, according to which he was acquitted of all charges against him, Mr N.S was released from prison and then went to Athens, where he is temporarily staying in order to prepare the conditions for his reunification with his children. To date, he has not been granted an asylum seeker card, nor has any reception conditions been activated (shelter, allowance), although his status as an asylum seeker has been established by the competent services for his release.

Mr N.S was prosecuted and was put in a pre-trial detention  for a year while deprived from his children, in spite of the fact that he had produced since the beginning all the necessary documents proving his whereabouts (documents of temporary protection in Turkey, relevant correspondence with UNHCR, certificate  of his wife’s death etc) while he has been subjected to DNA test for establishing his parenthood.

Mr N.S is a typical victim of the implementation of EU deterrence policies: the systematic and unlawful criminalization of refugees-and often of their rescuers- for irregular entering in EU territory, has become, nowadays a tool affecting and destroying the lives and freedoms of many people who are systematically deprived of their basic rights and guarantees, as provided by the rule of law, depriving them also of their protection.

 WE MUST PUT AN END TO THE UNLAWFUL CRIMINALIZATION OF REFUGEES FOR IRREGULAR ENTERING IN EU TERRITORY

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