Afghan refugees jailed for 10 years for Greek camp blaze

Four Afghan asylum-seekers sentenced to 10 years in jail for starting fire at Greek migrant camp
2 min read
14 June, 2021
A Greek court sentenced four Afghan asylum-seekers to 10 years in jail for starting a fire that burnt down Moria migrant camp on the island of Lesbos, the largest migrant camp in Europe.
Around 12,000 migrants lived in Moria camp on the island of Lesbos [file photo-Getty]

Four Afghan asylum-seekers were sentenced on Saturday to 10 years in jail for starting a fire that burnt down Europe’s largest migrant camp last year. 

A Greek court jailed the pair for arson, endangering human life, and destruction of property after causing a fire in Moria camp on the island of Lesbos in September 2020, which sheltered around 12,000 refugees from places such as Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. 

The defendants' lawyers appealed the verdict and said they would take the case to the European Court of Human Rights if necessary. 

"What we saw... was a parody of justice," said Patrikios Patrikounakis, the migrants' lawyer, according to The Guardian.

"They were given the maximum sentences possible without the court recognising any mitigating circumstances."

Previously, a request by the migrants' lawyers for defendants to be trailed at a juvenile court was rejected despite three of them being under 18 when the incident took place. 

Two other Afghan migrants were also sentenced in March for their involvement in the fire were given five-year prison sentences. 

Greek authorities said the blazes were started deliberately after quarantine measures were enforced due to an outbreak of Covid-19 cases.

Conditions in the camp made safeguarding measures against the spread of Covid-19 almost impossible, according to Doctors Without Borders (MSF).

Built for 3,000 people, almost four times that amount were living in overcrowded shelters without proper sanitation, as huge waves of migrants arrived on the island in the hope of finding refuge in Europe. 

No one was killed in the fire although 13,000 people were forced to sleep rough while replacement accommodation could be built. Despite the EU allocating 376 million euros to build a new permanent shelter, efforts have been slow and work on a new reception centre has still not begun nine months later, according to The Independent

Lesvos Solidarity, an NGO advocating for the rights of migrants in the camp, said: "Let there be no mistake: the Greek government and the European Union have ignited and fed this fire, with their inhuman, degrading policies of abandonment and containment."