The Latest: Migrants held hostage spurs arrests in Greece
Posted April 16
ROME — The Latest on Europe's response to the unusually large number of migrants trying to reach the continent: (all times local):
Police in Greece have arrested three Pakistani nationals for holding hostage 16 migrants without authorization to be in the country and demanding money for their release.
Police said Sunday that the three were "members of a human traffickers' network" and that 13 of the migrants they were holding were fellow Pakistanis, three of them minors.
Two of the held at a farmhouse outside the northern city of Thessaloniki were from India and one was from Nepal.
Police say all 16 crossed into Greece from Turkey about two weeks ago and that the people holding them demanded 2,500 euros ($2,654) from each to release them.
One of the Pakistani migrants escaped the farmhouse and notified police, who launched an operation Saturday night.
Profit-hungry smugglers are taking advantage of calm seas off Libya to launch unseaworthy boats, crowded with migrants, toward Italy.
After some 6,000 migrants were rescued from the Mediterranean in dozens of operations coordinated by the Italian coast guard on Friday and Saturday, hundreds more migrants were plucked to safety Sunday from dinghies and fishing boats.
The humanitarian group MOAS tweeted Sunday that it had helped several hundred migrants in nine rubber dinghies and two wooden boats over a 24-hour period. MOAS also recovered seven bodies, including that of an 8-year-old boy. It also distributed life vests to 1,000 migrants still on smugglers' boats who are awaiting transfers to the rescue ships that will bring them to southern Italian ports.
Italian news reports say the rescued migrants came from Africa, Syria, Pakistan, Bangladesh and elsewhere.