People-Smugglers Bringing Illegal Migrants to EU in Limos, Luxury Cars

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People-smugglers are transporting “desperate” illegal migrants to the European Union via Turkey in limousines and luxury cars at up to 3,000 euros a time.

Greek police have arrested five suspected people-smugglers from Georgia, a European country outside the EU bloc in the Caucasus, who they believe to be part of a more substantial and only partly dismantled criminal network, Ekathimerini reports.

The Athens-based newspaper describes the smugglers as transporting illegal migrants through Turkey in limos and other luxury cars fitted with licence plates from Bulgaria — which joined the European Union in 2007 — with the plates being switched for Greek ones near the Islamist-led country’s land border with the EU in East Thrace.

Ekathimerini‘s sources claimed the people-smugglers were cramming up to ten migrants a time into their vehicles, even making use of the space in the boot, and charging between 2,000 and 3,000 euros per head for their services.

Crossings of the Greco-Turkish land border, which was not included in a multi-billion euro deal between the EU and Turkey for the latter to stem the flow of hundreds of thousands of illegal migrants crossing the Aegean Sea into the bloc, have stepped up significantly in 2018.

Some 200 migrants waded across the Evros River, which roughly delineates the land border between Greece and Turkey, in a single morning just days ago.

The Greek migration minister, Dimitris Vitsas, has said that 12,000 migrants have crossed the land border so far in 2018 — more than double the 5,500 who arrived via that route in 2017, and more than triple the 3,300 who arrived in 2016.

The Greeks have complained to both the European Commission and the Turkish authorities that Ankara has been deliberately lax about preventing migrants from approaching and penetrating the land border.

There are fears that an estimated 500,000 migrants from Afghanistan who recently arrived in Turkey via Iran and Iraq could be en route to Greece — a country of just 10 million people which in many ways has never recovered from the financial crisis, and is still dealing with the fallout of the 2015 migrant influx, particularly on its easternmost islands.

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