Greek police say they have dismantled an international criminal organization that trafficked undocumented immigrants into and out of the country.
Arrests were made throughout Athens’ Attica region last week with authorities apprehending nine foreign nationals suspected of working for the group along with three migrants, according to reports. Similar cases against another nineteen people were also reportedly filed, according to reports.
In May, Greece reportedly sought European Commission funds to extend the fence it has built on Evros at the border with Turkey to prevent illegal migrants from entering the country. Greece has already built forty kilometers (25 miles) of the fence near the Evros river crossing. Athens is looking for EU money to construct another eighty kilometers. Officials want to prevent a recurrence of the events of 2020, when thousands of migrants and asylum seekers tried to storm the Greek border at Evros, demanding to pass through to the EU.
Migrants Were Placed in Athens Apartments
In last week’s bust, police said the organization would transport migrants into Greece illegally and then accommodate them in apartments in the center of Athens before moving them on—for an additional price—to other countries within Europe.
Greek authorities have long battled with the steady flow of undocumented migrants fleeing war-torn and hostile countries for asylum. Greece is very often the closest stop by sea for migrants on that journey, but many have tried to cross its land borders, as well. That has led to confrontations with Greek authorities working to prevent migrants from entering in order to also slow down the tide of those seeking to arrive in Greece on their way to other European destinations.
Earlier this month, a joint investigation by international media outlets alleged Greece has been coercing migrants into pushing fellow asylum seekers back into Turkey at Evros. There have been allegations that several undocumented migrants who recently crossed into Greece from Turkey through the Evros River were used as boatmen to ferry other migrants back to Turkey to prevent entrance to Greece.
Six migrants, Syrian and Moroccan, talked about how they participated in pushback operations on the Evros River under duress in return for a police note permitting them a month’s stay in Greece.
Greek Authorities Reject Migrant Abuse Allegations
The investigation alleges that one of the men who was identified as an English speaker was offered a deal. Namely, he would work for the Greek police or face charges of human smuggling and be imprisoned. In return for a permit to remain in Greece for a month, he would remain locked up during the day and be released at night to push back other asylum seekers.
Greek authorities and Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the Greek PM, have constantly rejected allegations of mistreatment of migrants and pushbacks, insisting that Greece has a “firm but fair” migration policy.