Refugee chaperones are accessories to traffickers, German court rules | News | DW | 14.11.2019

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Refugee chaperones are accessories to traffickers, German court rules

A refugee who was told by a smuggler to look after several women and children during the perilous journey to Europe also committed a crime, the court ruled. "The defendant is both victim and perpetrator," the judge said.

Germany's Federal Court of Justice (BGH) ruled on Thursday that asylum-seekers asked by people smugglers to look after other refugees have also committed a crime.

The court rejected an appeal by an Afghan refugee who was given a 1.5 year suspended sentence for aiding and abetting smuggling foreigners into the country, which resulted in death for those involved.

What happened?

The man was asked by a human trafficker who helped him reach Turkey to look after two Afghan women and their four children during their journey to Europe over the Mediterranean Sea and to serve as their contact person.

He helped transport the women's belongings and bought food for them. He was not given any financial benefit, and had to pay the smuggler money like everyone else for a spot on the boat.

During the trip in January 2016, however, the overcrowded rubber dinghy they were traveling on capsized, sending all 60 passengers overboard.

At least 35 people drowned — including the two women and their children. The Afghan man was rescued along with 23 others by the Greek Coast Guard.

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What was said in court? 

During a previous case in the lower court, the man admitted that there was a potential benefit for him to travel within the European Union if he was accompanying women and children.

The lawyer representing the Afghan refugee argued that his client did nothing more than try to help other people who were in a difficult situation.

Still, because he agreed to the smuggler's request to help the women and children — and because he followed through on it — the Afghan refugee ended up helping the smuggler, the court ruled.

Presiding judge Jürgen Schäfer described the case as tragic and noted that the man's offense was a more minor instance of aiding traffickers.

"The defendant is both victim and perpetrator," he said.

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rs/rt (dpa, epd)

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