Afghans Jailed in Greece Over Moria Illegal Immigrant Camp Blaze

By Reuters
Reuters
Reuters
June 13, 2021 Updated: June 13, 2021

ATHENS, Greece—Four Afghan asylum-seekers were sentenced to 10 years in prison in Greece on Saturday for their part in a fire that destroyed the Moria illegal immigrant camp last year, in a case that highlighted the chronic immigrant problem on Europe’s borders.

The men, charged with arson with risk to human life over the fire on the island of Lesbos last September, were found guilty after a court rejected a request by lawyers for three of them to be tried by a juvenile court because they were under 18 at the time.

Before the blaze, Moria was considered Europe’s biggest illegal immigrant camp, a sprawling and overcrowded town of tents and improvised shelters notorious for its poor and often dangerous living conditions.

Described by rights groups and the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR as unfit for humans, the camp had become a symbol of Europe’s stumbling response to the immigration crisis on its southern borders, which left much of the burden to be carried by small islands like Lesbos.

Greek authorities believe the fire was deliberately lit by camp occupants after quarantine measures were imposed following the discovery of COVID-19 cases among people living on the site.

The blaze sent more than 12,000 people, mostly Syrian, Afghan, and Iraqi illegal immigrants fleeing for their lives.

No one was killed in the fire.

A new temporary camp was set up on the site of an old army firing range but tenders have been launched for new closed centers on Lesbos and the nearby island of Chios that the government says will provide safer accommodation but which critics say risk becoming like prisons.

The four men were among a group of six Afghans detained by police following the fire. The other two were sentenced in March to five years in prison.

Defense lawyers said the men had been framed by a witness and that the court’s decision was “an inconceivable conviction without evidence.”

By Karolina Tagaris

Reuters
Reuters