NINE Egyptians suspected of being people smugglers connected with the deadly sinking of an overloaded migrant boat off Greece have been charged with human trafficking and remanded, a Greek legal source said on Tuesday (20).
The men were arrested last week in the port of Kalamata after surviving the disaster, which killed at least 82 people with hundreds more missing in one of the eastern Mediterranean’s worst tragedies in recent years.
The suspects are aged between 20 and 40 years and face charges of manslaughter and forming a criminal organisation. They face a sentence of up to life imprisonment if found guilty.
The men denied the charges during a hearing before a magistrate in Kalamata that lasted more than 10 hours on Tuesday, the legal source added.
Officials say the migrants aboard the boat which capsized in the Ionian Sea last week had departed from Libya towards Italy.
The authorities still have no clear idea how many people were aboard the boat when it sank – estimates range from 400 to more than 700.
A Greek navy frigate, a patrol boat and four other vessels on Tuesday searched the waters off the Peloponnese peninsula where the migrants disappeared.
But the hopes of finding any more survivors are scant a week on from the disaster.
A total of 78 bodies were recovered the day after the shipwreck. Three more were discovered on Monday (19) and another on Tuesday, bringing the official death toll to 82.
There are fears hundreds more people were onboard and have not yet been found.
As many as 104 people have been rescued and taken to Kalamata. The survivors are mainly from Syria, Egypt and Pakistan.
In Pakistan, 14 people have been arrested on suspicion of trafficking. The country’s interior minister Rana Sanaullah said DNA samples were being collected from families who wanted to come forward voluntarily. They will be sent to Greece to help with identification.