Journalist Ingeborg Beugel was arrested on the small Greek island of Hydra earlier this month for sheltering a young Afghan man. If charged and convicted, she could face up to a year in prison. She says the accusations against her are unjustified, and that the young man she housed should be considered a refugee, not an illegal migrant.
The journalist released her account of the arrest in Dutch weekly De Groene Amsterdammer – for which she works as a correspondent -- on Monday (June 21). Her story was subsequently picked up by Dutch, Greek and international media, and widely shared by Dutch Twitter users.
So what happened?
23-year-old Afghan asylum seeker Fridoon, who was being housed by Beugel, was arrested on the Greek island of Hydra on June 13, reportedly because authorities suspected him to be in the country illegally. Ingeborg Beugel was subsequently arrested the same day, after the 61-year old went to the local police station to get Fridoon released.
The two spent the night in a police cell and were then transferred to Piraeus (the Athens metro area), where they were both released on Monday, after Beugel alerted the Dutch embassy.
Her court case was postponed to October.
On Twitter, De Groene Amsterdammer shared her story with the caption: "Journalist Ingeborg Beugel gave the Afghan man Fridoon a safe place on the Greek island of Hydra. She was arrested as a 'refugee accomplice'."
What are the accusations against Beugel and Fridoon?
Beugel is being accused of hiding an undocumented migrant. If convicted, she could face a year in prison and a €5000 fine, according to her lawyer. Beugel said the case against her is based on a 1991 law, enacted amid an influx of migrants from Albania in Greece. A small clause in the law -- created primarily to criminalize employing undocumented migrant -- reportedly states that it is illegal to hide undocumented migrants in ones home.
Beugel's lawyer Vassilis Papadopoulos told news agency AFP that being convicted for sheltering a migrant would be "very unusual in Greece."
What does Beugel say?
Beugel believes the charges are unjustified. "I have never hidden that Fridoon lives with me," Beugel wrote in De Groene Amsterdammer.
She also says that Fridoon is a refugee who fled Afghanistan after his father and uncle where killed by the Taliban. She argued that the only reason he is considered to be in the country illegally is because his asylum case was unjustifiably rejected and because he has been incapable of contacting the authorities to address his case.
Beugel claims that Fridoon has been trying to reach the designated Skype number -- the only way to set up an appointment with asylum authorities -- since October, but he has not been able to reach anyone.
"He has had two asylum applications rejected because in July 2017, when he had to tell his story to the Greek Asylum Service, he got a translator who wrote his story wrong in Greek. It took years to correct that wrongdoing, and he is now entitled to another attempt," Beugel told news agency AFP.
Beugel says she houses two refugees
Beugel is based in Greece and splits her time between Athens and the small island of Hydra, located some 70 kilometers south of Athens. According to her account in De Groene Amsterdammer, Beugel has taken in a total of in three men in need of shelter -- Fidoon as well as a 23-year-old refugee from Sierra Leone and a homeless fisherman from Hydra.
In an interview with AFP, Beugel said a police officer told her that "angry islanders had called the police, anonymously." In her account for De Groene Amsterdammer, Beugel said that some people wanted to hurt her because she hosted a refugee of color at her home and because "they find my journalism too critical -- for example, in my 2019 documentary series, Hotel Athene, I showed the illegal [garbage] dump of Hydra."
So far, no comments from Greek or local Hydra authorities appear to have been made public yet.