NEWS

Migration policy focus to cracking down on rackets

As part of concerted European efforts to crack down on migrant-smuggling rackets – at the cost of hundreds of lives – teams of specially trained Greek police, in cooperation with their British counterparts, will be dispatched to key countries of origin, Kathimerini has learned.

Sources at the Merchant Marine and Public Order ministries have said that the teams will gather intelligence on the workings of smuggling rackets and that the first mission is scheduled to begin as early as June.

The revelation comes as coast guard officers on Monday averted a further tragedy in the Aegean Sea in the wake of last week’s sinking of a boat carrying 60 migrants off the coast of Samos, in which at least 22 people died.

A coast guard patrol on Monday spotted a rubber dinghy off the coast of Lesvos that was overloaded with 40 passengers. Everyone on board was rescued.

Also on Monday, the 32 survivors of the Samos wreck, most from Somalia, were transferred to the Greek capital from the Aegean island, where they are expected to be granted a certain level of protection on humanitarian grounds after being exempted from deportation for at least six months.

With a coastline of over 15,000 kilometers and hundreds of islands, Greece is a popular entry point for migrants trying to enter the European Union from non-EU member Turkey.

A string of tragedies that have led to dozens of deaths over the past year or so have prompted a new approach, including the Greek-British police initiative. Another measure expected to go into effect in the next few days is the gradual imposition of diplomatic sanctions on envoys from Pakistan in a bid to increase pressure on the government there to take a more active stance against migration outflows, Kathimerini understands.

A campaign to raise awareness among the publics of countries that tend to generate most of Europe’s migration inflows as to the hazards of trying to enter illegally and the difficulties thousands of migrants face once they succeed will also be launched as part of an EU-wide initiative.

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