Greek authorities have struck a blow to a NGO suspected to have been involved in facilitating the illegal arrivals of refugees and migrants to the islands of Lesvos and Samos. The NGO was mainly operating on the island of Lesvos and the hot spot of Moria. Investigation that has lasted several months has reportedly found out that the NGO was systematically active in the facilitation of the illegal entry of migrants and refugees to Greece.
Six Greeks and 24 foreign nationals have been identified to have been involved in the illegal activities, Greek media report on Tuesday.
Three NGO members were arrested in the last few days, another two last February.
Investigation was a joint effort by several police departments including those of Criminal Investigation, Combating Organized Crime and Human Trafficking in Athens, Thessaloniki, Mytilene and other islands.
The case started to unfold, when two foreign nationals were arrested last February near the airport of Lesvos. They were driving a jeep-type vehicle that under the legal traffic plates had fake plates with an Army emblem.
They two were charged for forgery, state secrets violations, espionage and illegal possession of a portable Navy type radio transmitter.
The case led to further investigation at the request of the Prosecutor’s office in Mytiline and the conclusions based on the case file are reportedly the following:.
The specific NGO was in fact a criminal organization active on the islands of the North-East Aegean Sea since at least the end of 2015, a few months after the big migration crisis started.
The NGO was providing direct assistance to organized groups of human traffickers who were transporting migrants and refugees to Greece from the coasts of Turkey.
The ultimate goal of the activities was profit even thought the NGO was registered as non-profit organization.
Its profit consisted of either donations in material objects or in subsidizing and/or collecting money donations by individuals or bodies deposited to a specific bank account and a donations website.
The group members were communicating via closed-encrypted social media networks and communications groups, where they received confidential information on specific times about the refugee and migrants flows from Turkey.
At the same time, they were illegally monitoring radio communications of Greek and foreign authorities like the Coast Guard and the FRONTEX and obesrved the marine area using modern technology means.
They were collecting specific information like latitude and longitude, departure and arrival time and place, number of boat passengers, prevailing conditions during the sailing
They were focusing in the areas of Turkish coasts and the launch of specific refugee flows to the islands of Lesvos and Samos.
They never informed the Search and Rescue Authorities about the data they had collected although they were integrated in the national and local SAR operations system.
Furthermore, in co-operation with other similar organizations, they participated in informal emergency response actions without previously notifying authorities as they should.
From 9. December 2017 until 9. February 2018, in dozens of cases the NGO members were systematically and organized were expecting arriving refugees and migrants and used the above mentioned vehicle for this purpose.
From the overall operation of the NGO, its members provided direct assistance to human traffickers, they intentionally facilitated the arrivals of a large number of third-country nationals to the islands of Lesvos and Samos in at least 11 cases from August 2016 to January 2018.
From its illegal activity, the criminal organization has (through the methods outlined above) obtained considerable sums of money, the amount of which is still to be determined.
The case filed against the parties involved refers to felony charges and at case to the offenses of establishing and joining a criminal organization, money laundering, espionage, state secrets violations, counterfeiting, as wells as offenses violating the Immigration laws and the laws of electronic communications.
The case file was submitted to the Prosecutor’s Office of Mytilini.
Two foreign nationals were arrested on August 21, one Greek in the morning of August 28.
Investigation continues in order to identify the entire range of the NGO’s criminal activity and its interconnections.
The name of the NGO has not been made public.