A Greek court sentenced a Syrian refugee to 52 years in prison for “illegally” crossing into the country from Turkey in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic when thousands were crossing, the British newspaper The Independent said.
The report said he was identified only by the initials and was given the stiff sentence by a court in Mytilene on the island of Lesbos that is holding thousands of other unlawful refugees and migrants in a tent city.
It wasn't explained why only he was sentenced for coming to the Greek island as those who are denied asylum are supposed to be returned to Turkey, which has refused to take them despite signing an essentially-suspended swap deal with the European Union in 2016.
Activists not named by the paper said the man crossed from Turkey to the Greek island of Chios by boat with his family, including three young children, and dozens of others in early March 2020.
The family had originally sought refuge in Turkey after fleeing the civil war in Syria, people fleeing that country making up most of the refugees who went to Turkey in hopes of reaching the European Union, which closed its borders to them.
KS claimed that he had refused to participate in the Turkish military operation in Libya and was briefly imprisoned as a result and that after being released he and his family traveled by boat to Chios but they were denied asylum.
He was charged with “illegal entry” - apparently the only refugee accused – and also of causing a “shipwreck” after Greek authorities accused him of having been at the helm of the boat that carried his family and as many as 40 others to Greek shores, said the report, that was also picked up by Turkish news site Ahval.