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Greek authorities 'break up migrant smuggling ring' on island of Kos

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By Euronews  with AP
In this file photo taken on Aug. 13, 2015, migrants on a dinghy approach the southeastern island of Kos, Greece
In this file photo taken on Aug. 13, 2015, migrants on a dinghy approach the southeastern island of Kos, Greece   -   Copyright  Credit: AP

Greek authorities say they have broken up a migrant smuggling ring that had been operating on the eastern Aegean island of Kos.

The group is suspected of bringing people from the nearby Turkish coast to the island and facilitating their movement to the Greek mainland.

Four Greek nationals and one foreign national have been arrested on charges related to the operation of a "criminal organisation".

The suspects are aged between 25 and 48 years old. Their nationalities have not been made public.

One of those arrested, a 39-year-old Greek man, is believed to be a "leading executive" who co-ordinated the smuggling ring, according to a statement by the Hellenic Coast Guard.

The foreign national and one other suspect had allegedly been arranging for migrants to be transported from Turkey to Kos, while two of the other Greeks provided accommodation for those who arrived at hotels.

Five other foreign suspects were arrested in the island's main town last Friday as part of a large-scale police operation.

Meanwhile, authorities are still searching for another foreign national who is believed to be another group "executive".

The operation to dismantle the group was carried out by Kos Port Authority officials, with the assistance from Greek officials from the Directorate of Security and Protection of Maritime Borders.

In addition, three foreign nationals under the age of 18 were found during a search of the home of one of the suspects, the coast guard said.

Greece is a popular route into the European Union for people fleeing conflict and poverty in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa, and a large majority make their way to the Aegean islands from the nearby Turkish coast.

In September, authorities opened a criminal case against 33 members of non-governmental organisations for allegedly facilitating the arrival of migrants to the island of Lesbos.

The members are accused of crimes including espionage, violation of state secrets, and violating migration laws.