NGO members on Lesvos suspected of facilitating illegal entry of 3rd country nationals, collusion with migrant smugglers

29 August 2018
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Police authorities on the island of Lesvos (Mytilene), which has borne the brunt of a migrant/refugee crisis in the eastern Aegean since 2015, have reportedly targeted 30 members of a NGO on suspicions of systematically facilitating the illegal entry of third country nationals onto Greek territory.

Three people have already been arrested on warrants, two foreign nationals on Aug. 21 and a Greek man on Tuesday morning. Of the 30 suspects cited in the investigation, 24 are foreign nationals and six are Greek citizens.

The incident that generated the initial coast guard investigation took place last February when the two foreign nationals, both NGO members, were charged with forgery, espionage and the illegal possession of marine radio equipment, among others.

The pair was detailed in the island’s port, Mytilene, in a jeep that had military license plates under its legal plates.

A subsequent probe by law enforcement and judicial authorities on the island reportedly revealed that the specific NGO, at least since the end of 2015, systematically facilitated the illegal entry of third country nationals onto Greek territory, and specifically on a handful of eastern Aegean islands. Greek authorities, in fact, charge that the NGO’s members were in direct contact with migrant smuggling rings operating on the opposite Turkish coast.

Financial gain was cited as the main motive of the ring, with the NGO serving as a cover and as a vehicle to receive state funding, assistance by other NGOs, donations by private citizens and groups.

Greek authorities said the suspects would communicate via mobile phone apps with each other, while also receiving confidential information from smugglers operating in Turkey regarding daily migrant/refugee flows.

Another serious allegation is that the specific NGO’s members illegally monitored the radio traffic of Greek law enforcement (police, the coast guard) and even with Frontex’s units, and also had lookouts with high-end binoculars posted along the island’s coasts.

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