Five people charged in Greece for smuggling 96 migrants

Accused people-smugglers were using a new sea route from Lebanon to Italy when caught

Migrants on a boat off Karpathos island, Greece. Hellenic Coastguard / AFP
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Greek police arrested and charged five people on Tuesday for trying to smuggle nearly 100 migrants into Europe on an unsafe vessel last week.

The five were accused of using what appears to be a new direct sea route from crisis-afflicted Lebanon to Italy.

The incident is the second in about a month involving a boat leaving from Lebanon.

The more common sea route for asylum seekers from the Middle East and Africa seeking a better life in Europe is from Turkey to Greece or Italy.

But it has become less used amid increased vigilance by Greek and EU border agencies.

The suspected smugglers were detained from among 101 people on the motor yacht found drifting last Thursday, 120 kilometres from Greece’s south-eastern Aegean island of Karpathos, local coastguards said on Tuesday.

They said the suspects included Afghan, Iranian and Turkish nationals.

The migrants, including 40 children and 19 women, were taken to a camp for asylum seekers.

“Due to the high number of passengers and the poor health conditions, the vessel was unseaworthy,” the coastguard said on Tuesday.

It said the migrants, whose nationalities were not made public, had paid between $6,500 and 8,000 each to be taken to Italy.

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On June 28, 166 migrants on an unseaworthy fishing boat that left Lebanon for Italy were rescued off Karpathos.

Greece’s coastguard charged six people on board with migrant smuggling in that case.

The UN refugee agency says that in the first half of this year, only about 2 per cent of migrants arriving in Italy by sea had come from Lebanon, compared to 55 per cent from Libya and 21 per cent from Turkey.

But the UNHCR said last week that was a significant increase from previous years.

Nine dead, at least 45 rescued after migrant boat sinks off Lebanon's coast - video

Updated: August 02, 2022, 10:31 PM