Greek court sentences Egyptian man to 280 years in prison for ‘trafficking in migrants’

Ahram Online , Saturday 11 Mar 2023

A Greek court in Crete sentenced a 45-year-old Egyptian man on Wednesday to 280 years in prison for human trafficking and smuggling migrants into Greece after he participated in the steering of a boat that was transporting migrants from Libya to Greece.

Refugees and migrants arrive on a rubber dinghy on the Greek island of Lesbos after crossing the Aeg
Refugees and migrants arrive on a rubber dinghy on the Greek island of Lesbos after crossing the Aegean on October 19, 2015. AFP


The man, a fisherman by trade who was identified by Greek news websites as H. El-Fallah, was charged with multiple criminal offences including unauthorised entry, unauthorised transport of 476 third-country nationals into Greek territory, endangering the lives of the passengers, acting for profit, and belonging to a criminal organisation.

According to the human rights organisation Borderline Europe, El-Fallah, who was accompanied in the trip by his 15-year-old son, made a deal with the smugglers to do chores on the boat in exchange for a lower fare because they could not afford the full cost of the trip.

The court convicted El-Fallah on human trafficking and smuggling charges because he participated in the steering of the vessel when it ran into trouble after it drifted due to strong winds in the Mediterranean.

A Greek coastal guard rescued the boat eventually and towed it to Palaiochora in Crete.

At this point, Greek authorities charged a total of seven of the migrants on the boat, including El-Fallah, with steering the vessel.

On Wednesday, the court convicted El-Fallah and the boat’s captain but acquitted the other defendants in the case.

El-Fallah faced a maximum sentence of 4,760 years in prison – 10 years for every migrant on the boat - under the 2014 Greek Migration Law.

However, the court showed some leniency in the sentencing because El-Fallah pleaded his case arguing he was acting in an emergency situation when he helped in steering the vessel.

Some Greek migrants rights groups and rights lawyers have charged that El-Fallah, who was only trying to reunite with his older son in the UK, was used as a scapegoat in the case, vowing to appeal the verdicts.

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