Greek coastguard arrests 78 migrants

AFP , Friday 18 Oct 2013

Local media reported that the coastguard has not released the undocumented migrants' nationalities

Greece's coastguard arrested 78 migrants, believed to be Syrians, on the eastern island of Rhodes in the Aegean Sea, port authorities said Friday.

Authorities had been searching for the migrants on the island since Wednesday, following the arrest of two men, presumed to be smugglers sailing in a boat under a Turkish flag close to Rhodes.

The coastguard has not released the undocumented migrants' nationalities, but local media reported they are Syrian.

On Tuesday, Greece's coastguard rescued 73 Syrian refugees stranded on a yacht in the Ionian Sea in the west of the country, who were then transferred to the southern port city of Kalamata.

Greece is a main port of entry into the European Union for migrants and refugees fleeing war-torn and impoverished countries in Africa, the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent.

Refugee traffic in the Aegean Sea has soared over the past year, because of stricter controls on the Greek-Turkish northern land border and the ongoing war in Syria.

Europe's immigration policies have come under the spotlight after more than 400 asylum seekers drowned this month in two tragedies in the Mediterranean.

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