Greece Arrests 3 Pakistani Traffickers Holding 21 Migrants Hostage

Greek police in the northern city of Thessaloniki say they have arrested three Pakistanis who allegedly held 21 migrants hostage in a warehouse on the outskirts of the city, demanding money to release them.

The migrants — 13 Eritreans, 7 Pakistanis and one person from Myanmar — had crossed over from Turkey on Wednesday and were taken by the three traffickers to the warehouse. Police say the traffickers were demanding 2,500 euros ($3,090) from each person.

The arrests took place Friday but were announced Saturday.

In an unrelated case, a car speeding south toward Athens went through highway tolls near Thessaloniki and was given chase. The driver abandoned the car, which carried five Pakistani migrants. Greek police are still looking for the driver.

In other unrelated cases, Greek police said Sunday they arrested an Afghan and a Pakistani attempting to travel to Germany from Kavala airport in northern Greece using a stolen German passport and a forged Pakistani passport, respectively.

According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) report, thousands of Pakistanis fleeing poverty, unemployment and law and order problems have been attempting to illegally enter Europe.

Every year, thousands of Pakistan make abortive attempts to enter Greece via Iran and Turkey for better working opportunities. Most of them are arrested in Iran and Turkey and sent back. Many continue to remain in camps in Greece waiting to be sent back or or be granted permission to move on to any one of the EU member countries.

With Greece facing an economic crisis and unemployment as high as 40 per cent, Pakistani immigrants have no prospects of moving to mainland Europe either as the European Union has shut its door to economic migrants

The Pakistani ambassador to Greece wrote a letter to the Foreign Office (FO) in January, detailing the dire state of Pakistani human trafficking victims in Greece and seeking urgent attention of the government to curtail the crisis-like situation.

He said the “unchecked” smuggling of people is “hurting Pakistan all around”.

The envoy told the FO that while he is making efforts to tackle the issue locally, the “tap has to be closed at your end”. He urged the interior ministry to take immediate steps to curb human trafficking as the issue is “becoming unmanageable”.

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