Ten foreign activists — including four NGO members — have recently been detained for illegal migrant trafficking in Greece. The group attempted to help migrants gain entry into Greece from neighboring Turkey through the Aegean Islands, according to Greek police.
The four NGO members include a Norwegian, two Britons, and an American. Two Syrians and four Afghans, who are not NGO members, are also part of the group.
The Greek police held a press conference at Lesvos on Monday where they said that the group had been “providing substantial assistance to organized illegal migrant trafficking rings” for over a year.
The group claims that their actions were motivated by a desire to help migrants reach the country safely as refugees. They used protected social media groups to assist the migrants in traveling from Turkey to Greece. Despite the groups’ motives, the Greek police said that they relied on “illegal trafficking networks” to get people into Greece.
Migrant trafficking is part of Greece’s migrant crisis
During the peak migration years of 2015-2016, more than one million people swarmed across the Greek seas and land borders to the European Union from Turkey. From April to July of 2019, a total of 12,363 people were recorded landing on Greek shores and at other border crossings.
The numbers of refugees and migrants for the same period in 2020, after the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, came to just 850.
The untenable situation came to a head in September of 2020, when after residents were asked to submit to coronavirus testing, fires were set by several migrants from Afghanistan in a bid to have the entire camp shut down.
Officials said the original fire was started by camp residents angered by the lockdown measures and isolation orders imposed after 35 people tested positive for COVID-19. The cases were found during broad testing and contact tracing after the illness of a Somali man who had been granted asylum and had left the island in July but later returned.
The exact cause of the first blaze was being investigated, but “what is certain is that the fire was started, because of the quarantine, by asylum-seekers in the facility,” said Migration Minister Notis Mitarakis, who flew to Lesvos with Greece’s interior minister and the head of the public health organization.
“Instances of unlawful behavior such as the ones we experienced yesterday will not be left unpunished,” Mitarakis said. “Such behavior is not acceptable, and also respect for law and order is a necessary precondition for the asylum process.”
The population of asylum seekers and migrants on the islands is finally showing a significant decrease, after the Moria camp was abandoned after the arson and the new camp at Kara Tepe was built for fewer residents.
According to the report published last week, the population of refugees and immigrants in Lesvos now comes to 4,994, of which 4,441 individuals are living in the temporary accommodation camp in Kara Tepe.