NEWS

Smuggling ring broken

As police yesterday questioned two Greeks and a Pakistani believed to have been key members in a major ring smuggling immigrants into the country illegally for more than a decade, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said he would do everything possible to tackle the «complex and major problem» of illegal immigration. The three suspects are being detained on suspicion of working for a gang that has been ferrying migrants to Greece from Turkey since 1995 and which is believed to have brought over the two migrants whose bodies were found in a ravine in Galatas, opposite the island of Poros, on Tuesday. According to the police, the two men, a Pakistani and a Bangladeshi, had been among a boatload of 32 would-be migrants ferried over by a smuggler earlier this week. The remaining migrants from the same trip were found on Wednesday, hidden inside a refrigerator truck on the Peloponnese peninsula. According to the testimonies of these migrants, the two men found dead had been beaten by the smugglers after complaining about the conditions of their transfer. Yesterday’s arrests followed dozens of detentions on Thursday after a police sweep of the Athens district of Aghios Panteleimonas. Some 60 migrants were detained after officers entered homes and carried out targeted arrests on the streets. Reacting to questions about the increase in the number of illegal immigrants in Greece, Karamanlis told Parliament that the government would exhaust all available European Union funds to tackle the problem. «Greece is a country that knows about immigration, understands the anxiety of our fellow human beings who are seeking a better life, but these people must also obey laws and there can be no tolerance shown to smugglers,» the premier said, responding to a question by far-right LAOS leader Giorgos Karatzaferis. In a related development on Samos, in the eastern Aegean, local authorities said their offices would remain closed on Monday to protest the relentless influx of immigrants their island has been receiving.