The Latest: Greece jails Palestinian over migrant smuggling
Feb. 20, 2018
BRUSSELS (AP) — The Latest on migrant issues in Europe (all times local):
A Greek court in the northern city of Thessaloniki has convicted a Palestinian man of running a major migrant-smuggling ring and sentenced him to 13 years in prison.
Judges ruled Tuesday that 29-year-old Jamal Owda was active during the height of Europe's immigration crisis, from July 2014 to December 2015 — when he was arrested in Britain following a Greek request.
Migrants allegedly paid the ring 1,500 euros ($1,900) each to be taken from Greece to Serbia by road, at a time before Balkan countries closed their borders to check migratory flows. The traffickers' annual revenues exceeded 10 million euros ($12 million).
Owda, who denied the charges, was extradited to Greece last year after British authorities rejected his asylum application. Another 22 people have earlier been convicted of belonging to the group.
The head of the European Union's border agency says the number of migrants trying to reach Europe through the Mediterranean will remain high this year, with more expected to arrive through Spain.
Fabrice Leggeri told reporters Tuesday that "the irregular migration pressure on the southern borders in the Mediterranean will remain at a very high level."
He said that "especially the western Mediterranean route is under scrutiny." About 21,000 unauthorized migrants — mostly from Morocco, Algeria and Guinea — entered Spain in 2017.
Leggeri said overall numbers have decreased since 2015, when 1.8 million people entered Europe. Crossings into Greece are down 80 percent from last year, but he said "of course there is still pressure."
He expressed concern that EU countries are sending fewer unauthorized migrants home.
Prosecutors in southwest Germany say a man who attacked and wounded three migrants with a knife apparently acted because he was angry about the government's refugee policy.
The 70-year-old, who has German and Russian citizenship, seriously wounded a 17-year-old Afghan in the attack Saturday near a church in the city of Heilbronn. A 25-year-old Iraqi and a 19-year-old Syrian were also lightly injured.
Bettina Joerg, spokeswoman for Heilbronn prosecutors, said Tuesday that the suspect was drunk and wanted to send a signal "about the current refugee policy."
Germany has seen a rise in anti-migrant violence following the arrival of over a million refugees in recent years.
Joerg said the suspect is being investigated for dangerous bodily harm rather than attempted homicide "because the assumption is he didn't intend to kill."