Boat carrying hundreds of migrants docks after Greek rescue: Coastguard

AFP , Tuesday 22 Nov 2022

A boat believed to be carrying hundreds of migrants was towed to safety Tuesday to the Greek island of Crete after a dramatic rescue complicated by near gale-force winds, the coastguard said.

Greece Migration minister
In this file photo taken on Wednesday, June 9, 2021 Greek Minister for Migration and Asylum Notis Mitarachi speaks during a media conference with EU commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson at EU headquarters in Brussels. AP


The asylum seekers "were towed to port, they have yet to disembark", a coastguard spokeswoman told AFP.

The agency had earlier said up to 500 people were believed to be on board.

Earlier on Tuesday, a coastguard spokeswoman had told AFP that "the distress call said there are 400-500 people on board but that the operation was hampered by near gale-force winds."

"They can see the boat, it's adrift, there is a large number of people on board," she said.

The coastguard said it had received the distress call shortly after midnight on Monday.

Two nearby cargo ships, a tanker and two Italian fishing boats were lending assistance, it said.

Because of bolstered patrols by the Greek coastguard and EU border agency Frontex in the Aegean Sea, migrant smugglers are increasingly employing the longer and more perilous route south of Crete, Greek officials say.

"Eighty percent of flows from Turkey go straight to Italy," Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi told Skai TV last week.

Last month, one of the sailboats believed to have 95 people on board sank at the island of Kythira, south of the Peloponnese peninsula.

The boat went down beneath a huge vertical cliff. At least eight people died and survivors -- mainly from Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan -- were hauled to safety with ropes and a construction crane in a frantic pre-dawn operation.

Greece, Italy and Spain are among the countries used by people fleeing Africa and the Middle East in search of safety and better lives in the European Union.

The Greek coastguard has said it has rescued about 1,500 people in the first eight months of the year, compared with less than 600 last year.

The International Organization for Migration has recorded nearly 2,000 migrants killed and missing in the Mediterranean Sea this year.

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