Greek Authorities Arrest Four Suspected People Smugglers as Dozens of Boat Migrants Intercepted

TOPSHOT - This photograph taken on January 10, 2024, shows an inflatable dinghy washed up

ATHENS, Greece (AP) – Greek authorities found 84 migrants arriving by sea and arrested four individuals, accusing them of being the traffickers that transported them, the coast guard said Sunday. Both incidents occurred early Saturday, it said.

In the first incident, the coast guard was alerted to a boat drifting, due to mechanical failure, at sea, 46 nautical miles (85 kilometers) south of the island of Crete.

A Greek Navy frigate found the boat and rescued a total of 72 individuals, 58 of them men and 14 minors, transporting them to Crete.

After questioning the new arrivals, the coast guard arrested two of them, aged 30 and 18, for being the traffickers that piloted the boat.

In 2023, 41,561 people arrived in Greece by sea, up from 12,758 in 2022, according to UNHCR, the UN refugee agency. Arrivals peaked at 10,839 in September.

The boat had sailed from the Libyan port of Tobruk. The rescued migrants told Greek authorities that they had each paid between $2,000 and $4,000 for their passage to Greece.

The two arrested individuals face charges of forming a gang, facilitating the unlawful entry of individuals into the country and exposing them to danger.

In the second case, also early Saturday, the coast guard was informed that people had landed on a beach on the island of Rhodes.

The coast guard sent a patrol boat to the waters near the landing site, while the Greek police also dispatched a foot patrol.

The patrol boat intercepted a speedboat with two men who were headed to the Turkish coast. The two foreigners, who were not carrying travel documents, declared they were aged 34 and 24 years old, respectively.

A little later, the police patrol found 14 migrants, including five men, four women and five minors, authorities said. The place they were found is called Anthony Quinn beach, after the Mexican-American actor who bought a property in the area after filming “The Guns of Navarone” on location, with co-stars Gregory Peck and David Niven, in 1960.

Authorities said they impounded the speedboat. They believe the two arrested men were traffickers who were returning to their base in Turkey.

The ethnicities of the rescued migrants and the traffickers have not been released yet.

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