Campaign Coverage 2020

Greek police accuse 33 people of helping migrant smuggling



ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greek police are accusing 35 people — all foreign nationals and all but two of them members of non-governmental organizations — of a variety of serious crimes for allegedly facilitating the clandestine arrival of migrants on the Greek island of Lesbos from Turkey.

Police announced Monday they had opened a felony case file against 33 members of four NGOs and two “third country nationals” on suspicion of crimes including espionage, violation of state secrets, creation of and participation in a criminal organization and violations of the migration law. Neither the names of the NGOs nor the nationalities of those involved were made public.

Police said the investigation began several months ago and included Greece’s intelligence service and anti-terror police, and is still continuing. Any formal charges against the individuals would be brought by a prosecutor.

According to the police statement, the 35 “under the guise of humanitarian action, provided confidential information ... to refugee flows from Turkey via closed groups and internet applications.”

The information included when and where on the Turkish coast migrant boats were preparing to depart for Greece, the coordinates of the boats and their direction, the number of people on board, where they were to arrive on shore, and what the situation was in the migrant camp of Moria on Lesbos, police said. Moria burned down earlier this month in fires Greek authorities have said were deliberately set.

Police said the investigation indicated that the group had facilitated the transfer to Lesbos “of a large number of third country nationals, on at least 32 occasions” either carried out or attempted.

Thousands of migrants and refugees arrive on the Greek islands from the nearby Turkish coast each year, with Lesbos being one of the main destinations.

The destruction of the island’s notoriously squalid and overcrowded Moria camp left more than 12,000 people in need of emergency shelter. Authorities have built a new camp, consisting of large family tents, on a former shooting range on the island’s coast.

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