From file: Lebanese army continues its search after a boat carrying irregular migrants sank off the shore of Tripoli, Lebanon on April 24, 2022 | Photo: picture-alliance/Ahmad Said/Anadolu Agency
From file: Lebanese army continues its search after a boat carrying irregular migrants sank off the shore of Tripoli, Lebanon on April 24, 2022 | Photo: picture-alliance/Ahmad Said/Anadolu Agency

Five people have been arrested and charged with trying to smuggle nearly 100 migrants into Europe on an unsafe vessel last week.

Greece's coast guard said that five suspected smugglers were remanded from among 101 people on a motor yacht, which had been found drifting 75 miles southeast of the Greek island of Karpathos last week. 

The 166 migrants on board, including 40 children and 19 women, were all reportedly taken to a reception center for asylum-seekers following their rescue at sea.

"Due to the high number of passengers and the poor health conditions, the vessel was unseaworthy," the coast guard said, adding that the migrants had paid between $6,500 - $8,000 each to be taken to Italy.

The suspects who were arrested in the case were all Lebanese nationals, according to Greek authorities.

Read more: Lebanon: Cabinet demands army probe over migrant shipwreck

More departures from Lebanon

The coast guard operation and ensuing arrests mark the second such incident in a month involving a boat departing from Lebanon. 

On June 28, 166 migrants also left Lebanon for Italy on an unseaworthy fishing boat used by smugglers. They later had to be rescued also near the island of Kapathos by Greece's coast guard, which said it charged a total of six people on board with migrant smuggling in that case.

Other attempts to leave Lebanon by boat have proven to be deadly for many migrants, who are hoping to find a better life in Europe.

Due to increased vigilance by Greek and EU border agencies in Aegean waters between Greece and Turkey, more and more migrants coming from the Middle East and Africa are turning to this newer route departing from Lebanon in the hopes of reaching Greece or Italy. Some have been leaving the cash-strapped Mediterranean country amid threats of being deported.

According to the UNHCR, there's a significant increase in migrants using this route compared to previous years. However at the same time, arrivals from Lebanon currently amount to only about 2% of all sea arrivals in Italy — compared to 55% of departures from Libya and 21% from Turkey.

Read more: Military in Lebanon stop 64 migrants from embarking on sea journey

with AP

 

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