ATHENS, Greece (AP) – Greece’s coast guard says it has seized a sailing boat and arrested two people on suspicion of trying to smuggle 37 migrants to Italy.
The coast guard said Tuesday the Ukrainian-flagged boat was stopped in the Ionian Sea northwest of the island of Zakinthos on Monday morning. The 37 people crammed on board were transported to Zakinthos port, while the boat was confiscated. The nationalities of the passengers were not released.
Authorities said they were investigating whether the two suspects, identified only as foreigners aged 35 and 49, might be part of an international migrant smuggling ring.
Hundreds of people continue to arrive in Greece from Turkey, most hoping to make their way to more prosperous European nations further north. With routes through the Balkans blocked, many turn to smugglers.
Thirty-four migrants including women and a small child who had been rescued by a German sailboat were successfully transferred to a larger humanitarian ship during a thunderstorm in international waters north of Libya.
The transfer happened late Monday about 120 kilometers (75 miles) off the Libyan coast, near the Bouri offshore oil field.
The 22 men, six women and a 1-year-old boy had been rescued earlier in the day from a rubber boat with a broken engine by the crew of a 14-meter-long sailboat operated by the German charity Resqship.
Wrapped in shiny thermal blankets, the migrants were transferred in pouring rain to the much larger Ocean Viking after the sailboat declared a state of emergency.
An Associated Press journalist aboard the Ocean Viking, a Norwegian-flagged ship run jointly by SOS Mediterranee and Doctors Without Borders, witnessed the operation.
There are now more than 80 migrants on the ship, which rescued 50 others over the weekend.