Swedish Journalist Faces Trial for Helping a Syrian Boy Enter Sweden
A Swedish TV journalist is to face trial for people smuggling after helping a Syrian boy migrate from Greece to Sweden, an offence punishable by imprisonment.
In the spring of 2014, Fredrik Önnevall was filming a documentary about European nationalist parties’ response to the migration crisis when he met 15-year-old Abed in Greece. Along with two colleagues, Önnevall helped the boy enter Sweden.
The Swedish Prosecution Authority said on Wednesday that Önnevall and his colleagues had “during the period of May-June 2014 intentionally helped a foreigner pass through Greece … [to] Sweden despite the fact that the person was missing a passport or any other permission required to enter these countries.”
The journalist, a presenter for the Swedish public broadcaster SVT, who along with his two colleagues could face up to three months in prison, has pleaded not guilty.
“I regret absolutely nothing. I know what we did and I would have done the same today,” Önnevall told SVT in March when he was called for questioning over people smuggling. “How can I regret helping a terrified boy begging for my help?” he said.
Broadcast nearly two years ago, the documentary sparked a wave of sympathy among Swedes as well as anger, prompting complaints over the Syrian boy’s entrance to Sweden.
“[He] was a 15-year-old boy in danger and in need of help,” Önnevall told SVT on Thursday.
“The prosecutor clearly does not make this judgment, but the legal experts I have spoken to say this doesn’t constitute a crime,” he added.
However, Kristina Amilon, a prosecutor in charge of the case, said that “just helping someone cross a border into a European country” is constituted as illegal immigration and therefore an offence.
“I had no excuse to not do it, no one else could help him. I also realised that it was a decision I would have to live with for the rest of my life,” Önnevall told Swedish daily newspaper Expressen last year.
Önnevall has asserted that he did not act as a smuggler because neither he nor his colleagues accepted any money.