Lucrative trade in migrants

A coast guard patrol stopped a US-flagged sailing boat off the coast of Methana, in the eastern Peloponnese yesterday, and found it to be carrying 89 illegal immigrants and a crew of two Romanians. Another 139 were found on the nearby island of Poros. Both groups were mostly Afghans, Iranians and Iraqis. In Athens, Deputy Foreign Minister Grigoris Niotis told an international conference on illegal immigration that the annual revenue of human trafficking gangs comes to $5 to $7 billion, on a par with that of drug-trafficking networks. Police in Methana arrested Panayiotis Karalis, 33, the driver of one of two vehicles that were waiting ashore to pick up the 80 men, 6 women and 3 children from the Blue Bird Hornet. The coast guard was investigating whether the yacht was registered in the US or whether the traffickers had raised the US flag in an attempt to escape inspection. A navy gunboat was sent to the Dodecanese, to shadow a Turkish-flagged vessel believed to be carrying some 450 illegal immigrants.

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