Greek coast guard vessel | Photo: picture-alliance/Zumapress
Greek coast guard vessel | Photo: picture-alliance/Zumapress

A vessel with 74 migrants and two people smugglers on board has reached the port of Katakolo in western Greece after sending distress signals over the weekend. Two Turkish nationals on board the yacht have been detained.

Greek authorities said that two Turkish nationals were arrested under suspicion of belonging to a human trafficking ring smuggling migrants into the EU. A broken down sailing yacht was brought to Katakolo in the southern Peloponnese region on Sunday, and confiscated.

The vessel is believed to have been heading for Italy, but it wasn't clear where exactly it had departed from. It was found on the weekend after a search and rescue (SAR) operation that involved two coast guard boats and private vessel.

Although passengers told Greek authorities they came from Syria, Afghanistan, Iran and Turkey, they lacked documentation to prove their nationalities. A total of 48 men and 26 women were on board the boat. 

Read more: Greece minister: Smugglers spread false rumors about pushbacks

Greek border officials have stepped up their operations since Turkey -- in defiance of the 2016 EU-Turkey deal -- declared its land border with Greece open to thousands of migrants in March. 

Around 11,500 migrants and refugees are believed to have managed to enter Greece irregularly in total this year -- a number that is presumed to have been much larger if the COVID-19 pandemic had not occurred. That number compares to about 75,000 asylum seekers reaching the country in the whole of 2019.

with AP


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