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Greece’s Coast Guard detains 9 alleged migrant smugglers

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Athens: The Hellenic Coast Guard has detained nine people allegedly involved in illegal migrant smuggling and responsible for the deaths of hundreds of people in a shipwreck off the Peloponnese, Greek media reported Thursday.

The coast guard has detained nine Egyptian-born alleged “human traffickers and participants in an illegal slave trade network that led to the deaths of hundreds of people” after a long preliminary investigation, the ERT broadcaster reported. Those detained have been charged with forming a criminal organization and illegal immigration, the report said, adding that the captain of the fishing boat that sank has drowned.

A Greek prosecutor demanded that some witnesses remain in the city of Kalamata of the Peloponnese, where they had been taken after the shipwreck, and not be moved with the rest of the migrants to a migrant center in the village of Malakasa so that they would be available for justice, the report said.

The gang of human traffickers had a page on social media where desperate migrants and refugees turned in search of a way to make it to the EU, the report said. Migrant smugglers were pricing the passage to Europe between $4,000 and $6,000 per person.

The broadcaster, citing survivors, reported that the boat did not set out from Libya but from Egypt. It sailed empty from Egypt, made a stop in Libya to pick up between 500 and 700 migrants, including dozens of women and children, and then sailed to Italy. The broadcaster reported that the shipwreck is developing into one of the greatest tragedies in Mediterranean waters as there are fewer and fewer chances of finding survivors since not a single person have been found in the past 24 hours, and the coast guard officers have been pulling only bodies from the sea.

People from all over Europe were arriving in Kalamata in search of their relatives and loved ones on the list of survivors and missing persons, the media reported.

On Wednesday night, the fishing boat carrying migrants capsized in international waters 47 nautical miles southwest of the Greek town of Pylos. The boat was heading from the Tobruk area in eastern Libya to Italy. A large-scale search and rescue operation was launched under the coordination of the Joint Rescue Coordination Center.

Greek media reported later in the day that at least 78 people had died in the migrant shipwreck, with over 100 rescued.

The International Organization for Migration said the boat was carrying at least 400 migrants, while the survivors estimated that 700 migrants had been on board.

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