Port staff held for smuggling

Merchant Marine Minister Anastassis Papaligouras yesterday ordered the suspension of five Patras-based coast guard officials believed to have been members of a ring smuggling illegal immigrants to Western Europe for the past two years. Additionally police have detained three local residents thought to have been involved in the ring and are seeking another seven suspects, including four foreigners. The minister, said to be considering the replacement of local harbor master Apostolos Liourdis, has called upon regional authority officials to convene in Patras today to discuss the alleged activities of the ring. In a related development yesterday, police in Halkida, north of Athens, were questioning the captain of a cargo ship and two Egyptian nationals believed to have smuggled 11 illegal immigrants into the country from Egypt. Meanwhile, police in Attica were investigating the circumstances of a gruesome discovery on the coast of Galatas, opposite Poros. The bodies of two migrants, wrapped in blankets and left in a roadside ditch, are believed to have been dumped by smugglers. In another related development, a police officer at Athens International Airport told Skai that some 150 illegal immigrants are crammed in a detention facility at the airport designed to hold just 26 people. The facility, designed to hold migrants until they are deported or granted asylum, has just two toilets, he said. According to a report made public yesterday by an international human rights group, Greece is breaking international laws by holding immigrants in substandard conditions and deporting them. The report by New York-based Human Rights Watch said summary deportations across the Turkish border are «systematic.» The report, based on 173 interviews with illegal immigrants, cites accounts of Greek police allegedly loading would-be migrants onto boats and sending them back across the Evros River to Turkey.