cpt.org | 21 September 2023
The Fight Against Alleged ›Smugglers‹ on the Greek Hotspot Islands
The following report outlines the system of punishment and incarceration of migrants who are accused of human smuggling at the EU-external border in the Aegean. It bears witness to the fates of people who have been sentenced to life long imprisonment in Greece. Some of them were not aware of having committed a felony crime by driving a boat with asylum seekers from Greece to Turkey; others were only crossing the border to seek asylum in the Euro- pean Union themselves. Upon arrival, they were arrested, often beaten, and held for months in pre-trial detention, until they were convicted in a court procedure violating basic standards of fairness. The harsh criminalization described in this report cannot be understood outside of the broader frame- work of the anti-smuggling policies of the European border regime, which will be analysed in this report alongside narratives on human smuggling, as well as the evolution of anti-smuggling legislation within the European Union.
To further understand how the criminalization of migrants on the Greek Aegean islands is possible, the islands’ special role within the European border regime will be characterized in this introduction. Located at the EU’s external border in the Aegean, Greece forms a central entry point into the European Union and at the same time a transit country for secondary migration to northern Europe. Both the facilitation of illegal entry into the country, and the facilitation of illegal exit, are defined as crimes in Greek law and penalized with excessive punishments.