Greek police said on Wednesday that they have rescued a group of 50 migrants who were allegedly held hostage near the northern city of Thessaloniki by a group of Pakistani men who were attempting to extort money from their families.
Police stated that many of the migrants, including five children, were in very poor physical condition, as it appeared they had been given minimal food and water for a lengthy period of time. One of the victims was hospitalized with pneumonia and dehydration.
Migrants held in poor condition east of Thessaloniki
The migrants were being held in abandoned buildings east of Thessaloniki. The majority, 38, were from Pakistan, 10 were from Bangladesh and three from Sri Lanka. Police said they were alerted by relatives who had received requests for money in order for them to be released, and added that they had arrested two Pakistani men on charges including abduction and blackmail.
Difficult days ahead, says migration minister
The migrant crisis has intensified with an increasing number of migrants who try to reach Greece through the Evros river rather than by landing on the northern Aegean islands. Amid the recent spike in refugee arrivals, migration policy minister Dimitris Vitsas has warned that ''difficult days'' lie ahead.
"There is a steady increase in the flow of refugees and we are well aware of this; the ministry will have a tough time in the coming period. We expect difficult days ahead" Vitsas told Parliament. "The main thing is for us to reduce the flows," he added, saying that his ministry is working to open channels of communication with Turkey so that their neighbors can also take the ''necessary measures.''
Vitsas said last month there were a total of 6,632 new arrivals recorded, with the majority applying for asylum. Around 4,000 entered Greece through Evros. Overall, the latest figures show that Greece received a total of 16,478 new asylum seekers in the first four months of the year.