Greek police arrest Dutch journalist for helping Afghan asylum seeker

By Katy Fallon

A Dutch journalist based in Greece has been arrested on the Greek island of Hydra for hosting an Afghan asylum seeker in her home and could face up to a year in prison if charged and convicted.

Ingeborg Beugel, 61, a freelance correspondent for Dutch media who has lived on Hydra for almost 40 years, was arrested on 13 June accused of “facilitating the illegal stay of a foreigner in Greece”. The charge carries a 12-month prison sentence and a fine of €5,000 (£4,300).

Beugel said she was arrested after islanders alerted police to the presence of Fridoon*, a 23-year-old asylum seeker from Afghanistan. Fridoon had been staying with her while appealing against a negative asylum decision.

“Several angry islanders had called them [the police] saying that I had a ‘suspect’ relationship with an ‘illegal’ in my house,” said Beugel.

“They detained me like I was some kind of lethal terrorist. They wouldn’t even let me go home to get my pills and deodorant.”

Ingeborg Beugel by the harbour on Hydra.
Ingeborg Beugel on Hydra. ‘They detained me like I was some kind of lethal terrorist,’ says the journalist, who was taken to Athens in handcuffs. Photograph: Alexandros Stamatiou

Beugel and Fridoon were held overnight in Hydra before being transferred to Athens handcuffed together.

Beugel said it was not a secret that Fridoon had been staying with her and that she has covered his story as a journalist.

“The whole ‘hiding’ thing is ridiculous,” she said. “There’s letters dating from a court case in January 2020 saying that I take care of him and pay for his lawyer and Greek lessons.”

Beugel said Fridoon’s original application for asylum in Greece was rejected because of translation problems at his interview.

“He’s been unable to get an appointment with the Greek asylum service. He’s been calling for months and hasn’t got an answer,” she said.

Beugel said she believed her arrest was in line with other complaints about police and the Greek authorities harassing journalists. Vassilis Papadopoulos, Beugel’s lawyer, said that the crime Beugel had been charged with was most often used when prosecuting smuggling cases. He said it represented a “toughening” of the official response to refugees and asylum seekers in Greece.

Beugel and Fridoon have since been released. Beugel’s court date has yet to be announced after it was postponed to October because of coronavirus restrictions.

The Greek authorities have been approached for comment.

* Partial name for privacy reasons