Greek police detain 15 Afghans at airport

Greece is European Union`s busiest transit point for immigrant traffickers.

Last Updated: Jan 09, 2011, 14:20 PM IST

Kavala: Police detained 15 Afghan migrants, including eight minors, and a Moroccan woman, moments before they boarded two small chartered planes to take them to Italy, officials said on Saturday.

The arrests in this northeastern Greek city occurred on Friday evening, according to a police announcement on Saturday.

Police say the 19-year-old Moroccan woman is an employee of a Milan travel agency that had chartered the two planes for EUR 36,000 (USD 46,500) on behalf of a Britain-based client.

"There is an ongoing investigation of a migrant-smuggling network. We are focusing on the network`s connections in Italy and Britain," Kavala police chief Emmanuel Loupeidis said.

It is not known how the 15 Afghans — made up of three families — found their way to Greece. What police do know, Loupeidis said, is that they bought fake Danish identity documents in the capital Athens for EUR 1,000 (USD 1,300) each.

On Friday, the Afghans were driven from Athens to Kavala in four taxis, with each taxi driver being paid EUR 700 (USD 900) for the 680-kilometer (420-mile) ride. The four drivers were arrested on their way back to Athens and their taxis impounded, police said.

The 15 Afghans and the Moroccan woman appeared before a misdemeanours court magistrate in Kavala on Saturday, police said. They face charges of using forged documents and attempting to leave the country illegally. The travel agency employee and the drivers also face charges of migrant trafficking.

Afghans said they had paid EUR 1,000 (USD 1,300) per family for the flight to Genoa, Loupeidis said.

Police were suspicious about the discrepancy between what the families said they paid and the amount used to charter the planes, he said.

In cooperation with the Italian and British police forces, they were also investigating why would someone pay so much for smuggling people into Italy, Loupeidis said.

Greece is the European Union`s busiest transit point for immigrant traffickers. Most immigrants, about 10,000 per month, according to official statistics, cross over from Turkey.

Bureau Report