Protests over new migrant wave

Athens will lodge formal complaints with Ankara, London and the United Nations regarding a seaborne influx of illegal immigrants over the holiday weekend that led to over 100 arrests in the eastern and central Aegean. Early on Sunday, a Greek coast guard patrol near Chios in the eastern Aegean spotted a small wooden vessel drifting in Turkish waters with 23 illegal immigrants on board. Reports said the boat had taken in water, and was close to foundering. According to the Merchant Marine Ministry, the Turkish coast guard and the marine rescue center in Ankara were notified, and about an hour and a half later a Turkish patrol boat turned up. But its captain refused to take the immigrants aboard. A second Turkish patrol boat also refused to help the stricken vessel. Eventually, the boat drifted into Greek waters, whereupon the immigrants were taken on board a rescue vessel and ferried to Chios. Merchant Marine Minister Giorgos Anomeritis said Greece would protest to the Turkish and European authorities, as well as to the United Nations, regarding Ankara’s refusal to help people in danger at sea. He said Turkey would also be asked to take back the immigrants, who sailed from the Turkish coast. Later on Sunday, coast guards spotted a British-flagged yacht, the 11.5-meter Taurus, aground on the uninhabited islet of Piperi, off Sifnos in the Cyclades, where illegal immigrants were seen. Yesterday, the Merchant Marine Ministry said a total of 54 people were arrested, including three Turkish smugglers who had shipped them over from Turkey. The ministry was to protest to the British Embassy as the yacht flew the British flag. Over 60 more illegal immigrants were arrested by Aegean coast guards over the past three days. They are all thought to have come from Turkey.