NEWS

Coast guard intensifies Aegean crackdown

The Hellenic Coast Guard is intensifying its crackdown on people-smuggling rackets in the Aegean ahead of what is expected to be a difficult summer when it is feared that large numbers of would-be migrants will attempt the crossing from neighboring Turkey.

Following a three-day investigation, coast guard sources said on Tuesday that they had traced three suspected smugglers who are believed to have organized the transfer last Friday of a group of migrants from Turkey to Rhodes, in the Dodecanese. The attempted crossing was thwarted by Greek coast guard officers who subsequently launched a search for the smugglers.

Officers intercepted 13 migrants off the coast of Chios on Tuesday after stopping two boatloads of immigrants off Samos and Kos last week. Those came at the end of a busy month with 51 cases of attempted people-smuggling recorded by the coast guard in April. In 31 of these cases, the smuggling vessels were spotted while still in Turkish waters and in several instances the migrants were rescued by Greek authorities before being handed over to their Turkish counterparts.

The Greek coast guard wants to foster a closer cooperation with its Turkish equivalent, which is often accused of failing to honor a bilateral repatriation treaty with Greece.

Expecting a larger influx of migrants from Syria and other strife-torn countries in the coming months, authorities on Lesvos are planning to open a second reception center.

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