Why Is Syrian Olympic Swimmer's Sister Facing Persecution in Greece?

Published November 22nd, 2021 - 08:45 GMT
refugees on a boat near Greece
Refugees and migrants aboard an inflatable boat arrive in the Greek island of Lesbos. (AFP)

Facing charges of helping illegal immigrants land on Greek soil, 25 volunteers are being trialed in Greece, including the sister of a Syrian Olympic swimmer; who made headlines several years ago for rescuing refugees who were facing the risk of death in the Mediterranean.

Sara Mardini, sister of German-based Yusra Mardini, is one of 25 aid workers who are facing criminal charges for assisting people on the island of Lesbos, where thousands of undocumented refugees arrive from Middle Eastern and North African countries.

The trial, which began on the 18th of November, targets individuals working for the Emergency Response Center International (ERCI), which was working on Lesbos island several years ago, during which thousands of refugees made it to Greece in the hopes of being granted asylum in European countries.

The charges include "state secret espionage, smuggling and money laundering," which could lead up to 25 years in prison.

Commenting on the start of the trial, Amnesty International has called the legal process "unfair and baseless," highlighting that the volunteers under trial worked hard to rescue human lives that could have otherwise been lost, similar to thousands of refugees who have died in the sea over the last few decades.

Sara Mardini's sister, Yusra Mardini, was acknowledged worldwide in 2015 for her swimming skills that enabled her to rescue individuals with whom she shared a sinking boat from Turkey to Europe. 

Yusra Mardini is an Olympic swimmer who represented her home country Syria in 2012 before she had to leave in the wake of the Syrian war. Currently, Yusra and Sara live with their family in Germany after being granted refugee status. 


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