Afghan father faces criminal charges after son drowns trying to reach Samos

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An Afghan man is facing charges by Greek authorities after his six-year-old son drowned when the boat they were using to cross from Turkey capsized.

Father and son had been part of a group of 25 people who left Turkey hoping to claim asylum in Europe, but their boat, believed to be a dinghy, reportedly capsized in the Aegean Sea. The six-year-old’s body was found on the shores of Samos near a pregnant woman, who was still alive and gave birth several days later.

The asylum-seeker is facing charges on the basis of being “a direct attack on the right to seek asylum”, reportedly the first such case in the country.

More than 1,400 migrants have arrived on Samos island so far this year, the UN says. Photo: BBC

The 25-year-old Afghan father could face a six-year prison sentence if found guilty of putting his son’s life at risk.

Vassilis Kerasiotis, lawyer and director of HIAS Greece, which offers free legal advice to asylum seekers in Greece, said the case was unprecedented.

“In other cases of shipwrecks that have happened since 2015, including those resulting in deaths, we never witnessed criminal charges being pressed on asylum seekers during their entrance in the country,” he said.

“This time we have charges for exposing an underage [person] to danger that resulted in death … We have witnessed such charges pressed for the same reasons at refugee camps in the country before, but never before in an entry point. So this clearly signifies a shift of approach.”

Migrants try to cross the Channel in September. Charities are calling for legal routes for those seeking safety in Europe. Photograph: Sameer Al-Doumy/AFP/Getty Images

His lawyer told the BBC that although a distress call went out to the coastguard at midnight, they only sent a vehicle to look for the body six hours later.

The lawyer argues that police should investigate that delay – not the actions of the father, who went into the town to seek help after making it to land.

A coastguard spokesman said the initial search did not find the vessel – and that darkness had hindered their work.

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