NEWS

36 ‘Palestinians’ caught off Crete

Coast guards detained yet another large group of illegal immigrants off southern Crete yesterday, and arrested seven men suspected of having smuggled them into Greek waters. It was the sixth bunch of illegal immigrants to be caught in the area since April 27, bringing up the total of detainees to about 500 people. Yesterday’s arrests followed a tip-off from the captain of a fishing boat that a suspicious-looking vessel had been sighted near the islet of Koufonissi, just off the southeastern tip of Crete. By the time a coast guard vessel got there, 36 illegal immigrants, all young men, had been put ashore on the islet. The patrol boat gave chase to a 17-meter wooden fishing boat seen in the vicinity, and eventually arrested its seven crewmen on suspicion of migrant smuggling. All the migrants claimed to be Palestinians, apparently in the hope of securing more favorable treatment, although coast guards suspect that they are Egyptians – as proved to be the case with the 463 migrants caught in the area over the past fortnight. All had claimed to be Palestinians, but failed a written test prepared by Palestinian diplomats in Athens.