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Monday, 5 November, 2001, 20:14 GMT
Greece rescues immigrant ship
A ship carrying about 800 illegal immigrants has been towed to safety by Greek coastguards after a fire broke out on board and the crew fled.

Officials said a number of women and children were being treated for minor injuries on the Greek island of Zakynthos, in the Ionian Sea.

The Turkish-flagged Brelner suffered mechanical failure after a fire in the engine room and had to be rescued in gale-force winds and heavy rains, according to officials.

The Greek authorities say it is the largest group of illegal immigrants discovered in the last few months.

Immigrant route

The 50-metre Brelner was found drifting some 30 kilometres southwest of Zakynthos, off the west coast of the Greek mainland.

The Kalsit, stopped in July 2000 with over 400 illegal immigrants on boarda
Greece is a route much used by human traffickers
About 200 people - mostly women and children - were taken to the island to be treated for dehydration and exhaustion.

Those who remained on board were given food and water while officials on the island prepare an indoor stadium where they will be taken.

The nationalities of the immigrants has not been confirmed, but reports say most of them are Iraqi Kurds.

The Merchant Marine Ministry believe the Brelner set sail from the Turkish port of Izmir a week ago, probably en route to Italy.

In a separate incident, a Greek driver was arrested in the western port of Patras after four Afghans were discovered in his lorry.

The authorities accuse him of planning to transport the immigrants to Ancona, in Italy, on a ferry.

Greece lies on one of the main routes to Europe used by human traffickers, and thousands of illegal immigrants are arrested every year.

See also:

31 Jul 00 | Europe
Italians halt migrant boat
06 Jan 01 | From Our Own Correspondent
Turkey's human traffic
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