Smugglers using smarter tactics

Coast guard officials say they have traced two smuggling rings believed to have been using sophisticated new tactics to bring immigrants into Greece illegally, from Turkey and from Egypt respectively. The first ring had been smuggling immigrants to the island of Evia from the port of Marmaris in southwestern Turkey, according to officials who confiscated two yachts used for the crossings. The smugglers reportedly employed attractive young Ukrainian women on the Kristina M and Yioulia – both Delaware-flagged vessels – in an attempt to throw authorities off the scent of the migrants hidden within. The would-be migrants would be flown from Iraq, China and Sri Lanka to Istanbul and transferred to Marmaris where they would board the yachts, authorities said. «Good tip-offs and coordination between different authorities in Greece and abroad helped us tackle this particular ring,» a senior official told Kathimerini. The second ring, believed to have been bringing migrants to the Peloponnese from Egypt, also used yachts which had been equipped with special compartments in which migrants could be hidden, authorities said. A few days ago, authorities searched a Comoros-flagged vessel that had arrived at the port of Nafplion and discovered 65 immigrants hidden in a compartment that had been covered by several tons of onions. Apart from the migrants, there were eight crew members on the vessel: Syrians, Palestinians and Egyptians. The particular yacht has visited Greece more than 10 times, according to port authority officials who are trying to determine how many migrants the ring has smuggled into Greece. Working on a tip-off from Greece, Turkish authorities recently arrested the chief coast guard official at Kusadasi, who is believed to have been offered 200 euros for every migrant he allowed to cross the sea border. «We have video footage showing Turkish coast guard officers pushing rowboats carrying immigrants into Greek waters,» a Greek Coast Guard official told Kathimerini. It is believed that a Greek national on Lesvos had facilitated the ring’s activities too.