Five Greek border police officers were arraigned Tuesday (29) as suspected accomplices of a smuggling network that illegally brought migrants into the country from Turkey.
The five men appeared before a prosecutor in the northeastern city of Orestiada, a day after the police department’s internal affairs division said they had been arrested on suspicion of taking bribes and breach of duty.
They are accused of helping to smuggle an unknown number of migrants on at least 12 occasions in the Didymoteicho area in northeastern Greece, the police said in a statement.
“An investigation so far has shown that the officers had been in contact with networks operating in a neighbouring country at least since October, and allegedly carried out actions or omissions aimed at facilitating the entry of (non-EU) nationals into our country,” it said.
Evidence linked to the case includes nearly 60 cellphones, Turkish lira and banknotes from a number of Asian countries, the police said.
Thousands of migrants, mainly from Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan, have in recent years crossed into Greece from Turkey in the hope of making it to western Europe.
With the stepping up of patrols in the Aegean Sea making it harder for migrants to reach Greek islands, more are taking their chances by crossing the River Evros, Greece’s natural border with Turkey, and having traffickers take them from there by road.
Athens has decided to extend by 35 kilometres (22 miles) a five-metre high steel fence which runs along the river.
The fence is currently 38 kilometres long, and Athens aims to carry out the extension within a year, adding a total of 100 kilometres by 2026.