October 3, 2001

3 October 2001: In one of the largest coastguard swoops on illegal immigration in a single day, around 300 illegal migrants were caught sneaking into Greece across its border with Turkey, as the war in Afghanistan triggered a humanitarian crisis across central Asia and the wider Middle East region. A group of arrested illegal immigrants are seen with their children, most of them exhausted after their ordeal, as they wait to be registered by Greek coastguard officials in a shelter at the port of Piraeus on October 3. Greek port authorities arrested more than 150 migrants, most of them from Iraq,

Iran and Afghanistan, on board a US-flagged sailing boat headed for the northeastern Peloponnese. Earlier, the coastguard detained a total of 117 illegal migrants on two Aegean Islands. On the night of October 1, authorities found 66 men, mainly Pakistanis and Iraqi Kurds, in a rocky coastal area of southeastern Evia, an island just off the central Greek mainland. Coastguard officials also detained 89 illegal migrants found hiding in another American-flagged yacht near the Greek mainland on the same day, bringing to over 400 the number caught in illicit landing attempts on Greek coasts since the beginning of October. The migrants - Iraqi Kurds, Afghans and Iranians - were found on board the Blue Bird Hornet as it sailed off the coast of Methana in the eastern Peloponnese. Authorities arrested the yacht's two Romanian crewmembers and a Greek bus driver in Methana, believed to have been waiting to transport the migrants. In a related incident, a Turkish-flagged ship, suspected of carrying an estimated 450 illegal migrants and believed to be bound for Italy, was spotted in international waters south of Crete on October 3. The Greek government called on Turkey to do more to stop illegal immigrants from leaving its shores and said its navy will prevent the Turkish vessel from entering Greek waters

Dimitris Yannopoulos

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(Posting date 5 October 2006 )

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