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Greece: boat arrival

Briefing notes

Greece: boat arrival

9 November 2001

UNHCR is pleased with the humanitarian response of Greece following the rescue of a ship with more than 700 people aboard. On 5 November, a ship carrying 714 people, including many women and 180 children (aged from 19 days to 10 years old), was towed to the island of Zakynthos by Greek rescue teams after the crew had lost control of the vessel in a storm. The ship had reportedly been sailing from Izmir, Turkey, to Italy. Those on board were exhausted, hungry and dehydrated. Some 220 people, mostly women and children, in need of medical treatment, were brought to the hospital. A decision to allow the rest of the people off the ship was made by the Merchant Marine Minister, who flew to the Ionian island. The local government organized the reception of those on board the vessel, who are being housed in a local hotel and an athletic centre. All were registered by the port authorities. Screening by the police, including initiation of the asylum procedure for those who want to apply, is expected to start in a couple of days. The breakdown of nationalities following the first registration by the port authorities showed: Iraqi (Kurds) 103; Iraqi Arabs 5; Afghans 36; Iranians 12; Turks (Kurds) 451; Turks 31; Sri Lankans 8; Ethiopians 7; Eritreans 19; Indians 13; Palestinians 28; Pakistan 1.

Seven Turks, believed to have organized the voyage, were arrested by Greek authorities. A UNHCR team has flown to the island to monitor the operation.