Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 16 October 2019

Greek police detain 10 Syrians disguised as volleyball team

The men were dressed in identical athletic uniforms and were carrying lost or stolen Ukrainian passports

The ten men were detained by police at Athens International Airport. AFP
The ten men were detained by police at Athens International Airport. AFP

Greek police have arrested ten undocumented Syrian migrants who were disguised as a Ukrainian volleyball team.

The migrants were arrested at Athens International Airport on Sunday after police found that the Ukrainian passports they were carrying had been reported stolen or lost.

The men were dressed in identical athletic uniforms, and carried identical sports bags and two volleyballs, police said.

After questioning, officers determined that the men were not a volleyball team. The men were detained and sent to a judge to face charges of trying to illegally leave the country on stolen or lost travel documents.

The men were planning to travel to another European Union country, police said. Officers did not identify the country, but it is believed that the Syrians were trying to reach Zurich.

Greece has been a frontier country in the EU's battle against a wave of illegal migration that has driven a rise in populism across the continent. At the height of the Syrian refugee crisis in 2015, more than a million migrants entered the EU.

Greek government figures show that several Greek islands are struggling to deal with large migrant populations.

Most of the Syrian refugees who fled the country did so because of its eight-year civil war, during which President Bashar Al Assad was accused of committing a series of war crimes.

More than 400,000 people died in the conflict, while millions more were forced to leave the country or have been displaced.

The Syrian regime, backed by Russia and Iran, has reclaimed much of the territory it lost in the early years of the civil war. Now, the Syrian military and its backers are focused on the last rebel bastion in the country, Idlib province in the south-west. A fragile ceasefire has been broken on several occasions by air strikes and ground skirmishes in recent weeks.

Updated: September 23, 2019 08:36 PM

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