Ten Syrians posing as volleyball team arrested at Athens airport

The men were dressed in identical athletic uniforms and carried the same sports bags as well as two volleyballs.

    Ten Syrian refugees posing as a men's volleyball team have been arrested at the airport of Greece's capital after attempting to travel to a European country.

    Police said in a statement on Sunday the refugees were dressed in identical athletic uniforms and carried the same sports bags, as well as two volleyballs.

    They were reportedly hoping to make it to Zurich in Switzerland, but were questioned and later arrested after police at Athens' Eleftherios Venizelos airport determined that they did not belong to a sports club, according to the statement.

    Police said they had entered Greece without legal documents and were found out carrying Ukrainian passports that had been reported stolen or lost.

    They have been sent to an examining magistrate to face charges of trying to exit the country using stolen or lost travel documents.

    Greece became one of the main gateways for refugees entering Europe in recent years, many of them fleeing conflict in countries such as Syria and Afghanistan.

    People arriving in Greece, a European Union country that has been brought to its knees over the past 10 years due to a severe financial crisis often make great efforts to slip through the frontiers to reach other destinations, mainly in wealthier countries in northern Europe.

    The number of people heading to the Greek islands from the nearby Turkish coast has decreased significantly since the height of the refugee crisis in 2015, dropping from 875,000 in 2015 to under 40,000 a year in 2017 and 2018, according to Frontex, the EU's border force.

    The influx was drastically curtailed by a 2016 accord between Turkey and the EU.

    But hundreds of people still make the treacherous journey, usually via human traffickers who use unseaworthy boats and pack them way beyond capacity, leading to many sinking or capsizing.

    Greece is hosting more than 60,000 mostly Syrian refugees and migrants, according to figures from the United Nations refugee agency.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies