Greece cracks migrant smuggling network

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Athens - Greek police said on Thursday they had dismantled an international criminal network that brought undocumented migrants into the country and helped them on to Italy.

The group “has been tied to at least 10 cases of migrant smuggling carried out over the past year,” police said in a statement.

Fourteen people were arrested on Wednesday in Athens and the Aegean island of Rhodes in connection to the case Ä eight Greeks, five Syrians and an Iraqi.

One of the Syrians is believed to be the group's mastermind, police said.

The traffickers would round up migrants in Istanbul and Izmir and bring them to the Greek mainland or to Aegean islands, mainly Rhodes, Kos and Lesbos.

The network charged at least 1 200 euros for transit to an Aegean island, 2 500 euros for transport to Athens and half price for minors.

They ran a similar service in Athens for migrants seeking passage to western Europe via Italy.

At a port in the Peloponese, the police seized a masted vessel that was allegedly being prepared to transport a large number of migrants to Sicily.

Europol and Interpol have been asked to assist in locating another 14 alleged members of the group in Turkey, Belgium and Germany.

Greece, with a population 10.9 million, has nearly 1.5 million foreign residents, including about 600,000 without valid documents. - Sapa-AFP

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