Smuggling routes under watch

Authorities are examining the possibility that there are strong links between the gangs that smuggle drugs into Greece and those that help illegal immigrants cross the Aegean from Turkey, sources told Kathimerini yesterday. The coast guard has received information that there are two major points in Turkey where migrants congregate to begin their journey to reach Greece. These are in Istanbul and Ankara. Would-be illegal immigrants are then transported to Ayvali, on the western coast of Turkey, and from there they are distributed to various launch points from which traffickers sail them to Greece. Sources told Kathimerini there are two methods by which migrants are usually smuggled into Greece. One method is for traffickers to take them to an eastern Aegean island – usually Lesvos, Chios or Samos – and keep them in a safe house for a few days before putting them on ferries to Piraeus. The other method is for migrants to be dropped off at deserted beaches on the island of Evia, where other smugglers then take them to their final destination. The vast majority of illegal immigrants arrive in Greece from Turkey. Figures show that 90 percent of migrants intercepted at sea last year had set sail from Turkish shores. Of some 3,400 illegal immigrants detained upon arrival last year, more than 2,400 (72 percent) had come through Turkey. Greek authorities also arrested 112 people smugglers in 2005; 64 had Turkish nationality. Migrants usually pay $3,000-$4,000 to traffickers for a place on a boat to Greece, from where many choose to move on to another country in the European Union. Sources told Kathimerini that the Greek coast guard has specific information that indicates that there are clear links between human-trafficking rings and the gangs that bring drugs into Europe.