NEWS

Tough bill targets people smugglers

Hoping to discourage the smuggling of illegal immigrants into Greece by sea, the government yesterday tabled legislation that would impose stiff sentences on migrant smugglers. A total of 3,945 illegal immigrants were caught last year entering Greece aboard a variety of rickety vessels – from inflatable dinghies to rusty old motorships – while coastguards arrested 84 Greek and Turkish smugglers and confiscated 67 smuggling ships. Nearly all the migrants had sailed from Turkey. Under the proposed legislation, which, as often happens, was tabled as part of a totally unrelated bill on training merchant seamen, smugglers will face life imprisonment and 500,000-euro fines if even a single migrant dies on the trip, while severe sentences and 100,000-euro fines will be imposed on smugglers who endanger the life of their charges. The bill on training merchant seamen also contains articles allowing coast-guard officers to conduct breathalyzer tests for drunkenness on speedboat skippers.