33 NGO members arrested by Greek police for aiding illegal migrants, supporting smuggling networks

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Greek police have arrested 33 NGO members and two foreign nationals for aiding illegal migrants entering from Turkey into Greece, 

The suspects are facing charges of running a criminal organization, espionage and violation of state secrets, according to a statement release by Greek Police (ELAS) on Monday.

Police say the NGOs members were involved in supporting smuggling rings and would aid migrants through encrypted chat apps, social media groups, and providing confidential information, including offering geographical coordinates of migrant routes into Greece as well as providing important data for migrants attempting to navigating the Turkish coasts. 

“Under the guise of humanitarian action, [the suspects] provided confidential information … to refugee flows from Turkey via closed groups and internet applications,” the police wrote in the statement. 

The police related that following several months of investigation, along with support from Greece’s intelligence agency and counter-terrorism units, ELAS determined that the group was aiding in smuggling migrants from the island of Lesbos since early June.

It is alleged to have actively supported smuggling rings to sneak in migrants using closed social media groups, apps and confidential information including gathering points of migrants on the Turkish coast and the geographical coordinates of refugee flows towards Greece.

The alleged use of the apps also interfered with rescue operations by the Hellenic Coast Guard, according to ELAS.

The names of the individuals arrested or the NGO they belonged to has not been released.

The NGO and its members have been linked to at least 32 cases of migrant smuggling or attempted smuggling, the statement said, adding that the investigation is continuing to determine the breadth of the alleged racket’s activities. 

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