A father whose son drowned on the weekend in an attempt to reach Samos by boat was arrested on suspicion of endangering a life. News agency AP reported that father and son were among a group of 25 migrants who set off from Turkey to the Greek Aegean Islands.
Greek authorities have arrested a migrant whose son died while they attempted to reach a Greek island from the nearby Turkish coast. That's according to news agency AP. The man is suspected of endangering a life, a crime that could carry a penalty of up to ten years in prison.
The arrest comes after the body of his young son was discovered by the Greek coast guard near the eastern Aegean island of Samos on Sunday, as InfoMigrants reported Monday (November 9).
The boat, which set off from Turkey, is now thought to have been carrying 25 people. Among them was the 25-year-old man and his 6-year-old son, both Afghans. The group was found on the shores of Samos early Sunday.
While the body of the 6-year-old boy was found with one woman in the waters near the island that were particularly difficult to access, the Greek coast guard said, the others were found in small groups elsewhere.
According to the German press agency dpa, the boat had run into trouble on Sunday and seven people managed to swim to shore. Authorities said it was unclear what had happened to the boat, and exactly how the child had died.
Violation of endangerment laws?
According to the Greek coast guard, the dead boy's 25-year-old father was arrested on suspicion of violating endangerment laws. In Greece, the endangerment of a person that leads to death can result in a prison sentence of up to ten years.
"These charges are a direct attack on the right to seek asylum and it is outrageous that a grieving father is being punished for seeking safety for him and his child," Josie Naughton, founder of the aid organization Help Refugees/Choose Love, said in an online statement from Monday (November 9).
"Criminalizing people that are seeking safety and protection shows the failure of the European Union to find a solution to unsafe migration routes that forced thousands to risk their lives to seek protection," Naughton said further.
In addition to the boy's father, a 23-year-old who had been identified as having driven the boat was arrested on Monday on suspicion of migrant smuggling.
AP reported that "although it is common" for Greek authorities to arrest those at the helm of migrant vessels that arrive in Greece, it is "rare" for parents who survived but whose children died "to be charged with criminal offenses" when it comes to shipwrecks.
Arrivals to Greek Islands down
Compared to 2019, sea arrivals on the Greek Islands from Turkey have significantly dropped this year. The latest figures from the UN refugee agency UNHCR show that in the week from November 2 to November 8, a total of 59 people arrived on all of the Aegean islands. Last year, nearly a thousand people arrived during the same week.
Greece is one of the most popular routes for people fleeing conflict and poverty in the Middle East, Asia and Africa and hoping to enter the European Union. The vast majority make their way to eastern Greek Islands from the nearby Turkish coast.
Although the distance is small, the journey is often perilous, with smugglers frequently using unseaworthy and vastly overcrowded boats and dinghies that sometimes capsize or sink.
Several charities have claimed that the Greek government has been engaging in pushbacks of migrants towards Turkey, it's a charge the Greek minister for immigration and asylum, Notis Mitarakis denies.
According to the latest UNHCR data, "some 19,600 refugees and asylum seekers" were present on the Greek Islands as of November 8. Nearly half of them originally came from Afghanistan (46%), while Syrians make up about 19% of the population on the islands and those from Democratic Republic of Congo around 7%. Roughly half are men, and some 28% are unaccompanied minors.