Two Turkish mothers plan to file an appeal after being sentenced to prison for six months over forged travel documents, forcing them to be separated from their two small children.

Their lawyer, Etienne Calleja, of Calleja & Associates Advocates, said their punishment did not fit the crime.

“The crime committed is a victimless crime, and they themselves are victims and should not be targeted by the judicial system to make them victims once more,” Calleja told Times of Malta.

Last week, Rabia Yavuz, 27, and Muzekka Deneri, 29, both teachers, admitted to using forged travel papers as they sought to avoid repatriation to Turkey, after having fled in the attempted coup d’etat of 2016.

“Effective jail terms were not imposed even in much more serious cases of involuntary homicide, bigamy, usury or attempted grievous bodily harm,” Calleja, who is assisting for free, said.

“In one case, two individuals with identical charges were not given a jail term. And it is important to note that in neither of these similar cases were minor children separated from their parents, so we are also saying that this judgment is also making victims of these innocent children.”

Effective jail terms were not imposed even in much more serious cases

The appeal calls for the mothers to be given a suspended sentence, so that they would immediately be returned to Greece, their first point of entry in the EU.

They were arrested at the airport on Monday alongside two men, an Algerian and a Libyan, both also convicted under the same charges.

The women had presented false French and Italian identity cards and one of them also carried two illegal Romanian cards.

The prosecuting inspector, Karl Roberts, told the court that human traffickers had probably devised a scheme whereby illegal migrants were set up as couples with small children.

The women’s legal aid lawyer Christopher Chircop explained that after fleeing Turkey, the two women had sought refuge in Greece but the pandemic had made it difficult for them to renew their residence documents which were due to expire.

In a bid to avoid repatriation by the Greek authorities, they had been trying to make their way to Belgium, in the hope of giving a better life to their sons, aged two and four.

As the case was being heard, the constant wailing of the small boys could be heard outside the courtroom.

The children have now become wards of the state, with a team from government support agency Appoġġ checking to see whether they have any form of social network in Malta.

Chircop had warned the court they would be traumatised if torn away from their mothers in an alien country, facing a language barrier and unfamiliar customs.

Apart from filing the appeal, Calleja said that were cooperating with child protection services to find an effective and speedy way for the children to be reunited with their fathers or other family members in Greece.  

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