Four Afghan asylum seekers jailed for burning down Europe’s largest migrant camp
On Saturday, a Greek court sentenced four Afghan asylum seekers to ten years in prison for their role in burning down Europe’s largest migrant camp on the island of Lesbos that left at least 13,000 homeless.
The men had been charged with risking human life and arson related to the massive fire set in September 2020.
The process through Greece’s judicial system and sentencing came despite efforts by defence lawyers to have three of the migrants tried in a juvenile court on the grounds that they were underage at the time of the fire, Reuters reports.
While no one had died during the fire, the destruction of the Moria camp had left at least 13,000 migrants — mostly from Afghanistan, Syria, and Iraq — homeless. Just hours after the camp caught fire, several politicians and others claimed that the blaze had been a deliberate act of arson committed by migrants living at the facility.
Greek Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi stated at the time that the fire had been caused by asylum seekers who were angry that the camp had been placed into quarantine after a Wuhan coronavirus outbreak among its residents.
Several days after the fire, police arrested five migrants, with a total of six men being detained and later charged in connection with the arson.
Footage also emerged from Greek media that claimed to show migrants spreading fire around by lighting a piece of cardboard and spreading the blaze to nearby vegetation.
Greek newspaper Proto Thema had stated that investigators had entered the footage as evidence in the case.
In March, two of the six Afghan migrants were convicted in connection to the arson and sentenced to five years in prison. Both were 17 years old and were placed in a juvenile prison after lodging an appeal.
Several humanitarian groups have complained in recent years that the Moria camp was overcrowded and dangerous.
Since the height of the migrant crisis in 2015, the facilities had seen several fires, including in April 2016, when rioting migrants clashed with police just days after Pope Francis had visited the camp.
In September 2016, another fire at the camp displaced 5,000 migrants, while three years later, a fire broke out during a riot that left two Afghan migrants dead.