May 31, 2016 / 1:22 PM / in 2 years

Greece arrests group trying to smuggle migrants abroad

ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece has arrested a group of men who tried to smuggle a dozen migrants abroad in a truck from a port city connecting Greece to Italy, the coast guard said on Tuesday.

The four Greek nationals, including the driver, were arrested early on Monday “for forming a criminal group, for facilitating the transfer of undocumented foreigners abroad and for exposing them to danger,” the coast guard said.

The 12 migrants, who Greek media said were Somali and Iraqi, were also arrested. The Athens News Agency said the truck had set off from the northern city of Thessaloniki, Greece’s second-biggest, and was discovered in the western port city of Igoumenitsa.

In previous years, hundreds of migrants made desperate - and often unsuccessful - attempts to board ferries to Italy from Igoumenitsa as well as from the port of Patras further south by hanging on to the underside of cargo trucks.

That changed in 2015 when about a million migrants and refugees, mostly Syrians, Afghans and Iraqis who arrived in Greece from Turkey, took the easier overland route to western and northern Europe through Greece’s border with Macedonia.

That route has been closed off since February following border shutdowns across the Balkans, stranding about 54,000 migrants and refugees in various makeshift or state-run camps across Greece.

Reporting by Karolina Tagaris; Editing by Tom Heneghan

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