Greeks arrest suspected smugglers on boat with nearly 500 migrants

Greek authorities have arrested seven Egyptian nationals on charges of human trafficking after a boat with nearly 500 migrants on board was brought to the island of Crete this week.

The seven Egyptians are believed to have been part of the crew of the fishing boat which was heading from Libya to Italy but was intercepted after a distress call due to high winds at sea and loss of piloting ability and brought to the Greek island of Crete.

The 82-foot-long fishing boat contained a total of 483 migrants, one of the largest individual shipments of migrants ashore in Greece in years, according to the newspaper Ekathimerini reports.

On Friday, the seven Egyptians were arrested by Greek authorities. They are believed to be part of a smuggling ring who charged migrants on the ship up to $4,000 / £3,308 for the trip from Libya to Italy.

According to the Greek Coast Guard, the ship contained 336 adult men, ten women, 128 believed to be minors and nine girls, with the migrants coming mainly from Egypt, Syria, Pakistan, Palestine and Sudan.

Boats with hundreds of migrants on board crossing the Mediterranean are now relatively rare, but the number of migrants crossing the sea from North Africa to the European Union as a whole has increased in 2022, the United Nations Agency for refugees (UNHCR) claiming that more than 92,000 migrants have arrived in Italy alone so far this year.

Frontex, the European Union’s border agency, published a report earlier this month on illegal entries into the EU, noting that in the first ten months of 2022 the bloc had seen an increase 74% of illegal arrivals.

While the report notes a 59% increase on the Central Mediterranean route, the Eastern Mediterranean, where Greece is one of the main entry points, saw a 122% increase, with 35,343 illegal crossings between January and October.

Greek authorities have launched several investigations into the activities of smugglers at their borders, including one last month suggesting that pro-migration NGOs could coordinate with smugglers to help migrants enter their country illegally.

Follow Chris Tomlinson on Twitter at @TomlinsonCJ or by e-mail at ctomlinson(at)

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