Syrian refugee detained in Greece as family burned: rights group

Syrian refugee detained in Greece as family burned: rights group

ATHENSSyrian refugee detained in Greece as family burned: rights group - A Syrian refugee has accused Greek authorities of locking him up for weeks as his wife and two children died in a wildfire on an island where a smuggler had left them.

The family of four was brought to the Greek island of Samos in a smuggler dinghy from the neighbouring Turkish coast on July 21, the day a wildfire broke out on the island, the father, Wasim Abounahi, told Greek rights group Diktyo, which has publicised the case.

A rescue boat allegedly dispatched by Greek authorities turned away without picking them up, Abounahi said, forcing him to abandon his family and seek refuge on foot.

When he reached a house and asked for help, the owner called the police and he was arrested, spending several days tied to a chair at a police station before being taken to a detention centre on the island, according to Diktyo, which specialises in assisting immigrants.

"I took away my family to save it from the flames engulfing Syria, so that it could burn to death in Greece?" Abounahi told Diktyo.

Greece arrests would-be immigrants for illegal entry into the country and deports them unless they can prove a genuine threat to their safety if they are returned home.

Overall, Abounahi spent a month in detention and was only able to resume his search on September 6, whereupon he found the charred remains of his wife and two small children - a three-year-old boy and a nine-month-old girl.

The police said an investigation has been ordered into the case.

"The man from Syria has been released and any deportation procedures have been suspended," a police source told AFP.

"He had also been originally arrested for arson, but no such responsibility emerged," he added.

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