Refugee Crisis

Syrian jailed for two years for smuggling

Syrian jailed for two years for smuggling
Landesgericht Wiener Neustadt
A Syrian man found guilty of smuggling 178 fellow citizens through Austria was sentenced to two years in prison on Tuesday by the Vienna Criminal Court.

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The 33-year-old, who came to Austria as a war refugee in February 2014 and received asylum in October, was part of a group operating out of Poland to smuggle Syrians to northern Europe.

He provided accommodation for people who arrived in Vienna with no roof over their head, at the cost of 50 Euros per person, which his lawyer said was just to cover expenses.

Most of the refugees then continued their journey to Poland the next day, eventually travelling on to Germany and Sweden.

The Syrian organised 32 such journeys between June and December but says he only charged around 100 of his compatriots and did not take money from everyone.

“This is no criminal living in luxury. This is a man whose first priority is to help his people. The 50 Euros has just covered the expenses,” his legal defender Andreas Strobl said.

In total he lived off an income of 5,000 Euros. “At the beginning I had only 40 Euros support a month,” the defendant said, explaining that only when he received asylum status in October did his financial situation improve.

The smuggler was arrested in Hungary on 20th January, after an extensive investigation run by a special commission of provincial police in Burgenland.

After his arrest, he cooperated with police and named other people involved, as well as providing an insight into the smuggling operations.

“I will feel a shame to the end of my life,” the Syrian said after giving evidence in the proceedings. When he received the punishment of an unconditional sentence of two years, he reportedly struck his hands on his head in horror.

A Chechen man was also sentenced on Tuesday to 16 months in jail for smuggling offences. The man, who came to Austria in 2007, helped to smuggle people using the small transport company he ran.

“I did not know that it was dangerous,” he told the court. “They promised me money. I fell for it.”

In both cases, the judgement is not final.