Greece safely evacuates dozens of migrants from a sailboat off the southern coast

Greece safely evacuates dozens of migrants from a sailboat off the southern coast

Greek authorities said Friday they safely evacuated dozens of migrants from a sailboat reported in trouble off the southern coast of Greece, amid a rise in migration to the Mediterranean country.

The coast guard said all the people on board, estimated at up to 70, were transferred to a patrol boat in international waters southwest of the Peloponnese region, and were being taken to the port of Katakolo.

The evacuation followed a large search and rescue operation involving three coast guard patrol and rescue boats, a navy ship, aircraft and four merchant vessels, a coast guard statement said.

It was launched after Greek maritime authorities received an alarm message early Friday reporting a boat in danger some 70 kilometers (40 miles) southwest of the port of Pylos in the Peloponnese.

The coast guard said the migrants’ boat was not letting in water or otherwise in danger, as had been initially reported.

The incident occurred near the site of a maritime tragedy in mid-June that left hundreds of migrants dead or missing after a fishing trawler sank in international waters while traveling from Libya to Italy. Greece was heavily criticized for failing to safely evacuate the ship before it sank.

It was unclear where the yacht had sailed from.

International waters off southwestern Greece are on a route used by smugglers in recent years to carry migrants in overloaded sailboats from Turkey to Italy. Longer and more dangerous than the short crossing to Greece’s eastern Aegean Sea islands, it’s used in an attempt to bypass Greek coast guard patrols in the Aegean.

Also Friday, the coast guard rescued 22 migrants from a stranded sailboat off the eastern Aegean island of Rhodes.

Greece has seen a rise in migrant arrivals from Turkey, mostly by sea, in recent weeks amid more clement summer sailing conditions. [AP]

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