Hundreds rescued, 9 die in shipwreck as tensions rise in migrant camps
Hundreds of migrants were rescued on Friday after a smuggling boat sank in international waters south of Crete, while the Hellenic Coast Guard recovered the bodies of at least nine drowned migrants.
The 25-meter vessel capsized in the early hours of Friday morning under circumstances that remained unclear, leaving hundreds of migrants in the sea, some 70 nautical miles south of Crete. According to the International Organization for Migration, around 700 migrants had been aboard the vessel.
Five ships – cargo and commercial vessels – had been near the scene and offered assistance, rescuing scores of migrants. The Hellenic Coast Guard sent two vessels while the navy dispatched two Super Puma helicopters to scour the area. By late Friday, 340 migrants had been rescued and the bodies of nine migrants pulled out of the sea by rescue workers.
Another vessel capsized off the coast of Libya on Friday, leading to a larger death toll, with more than 100 bodies found in the sea.
Meanwhile authorities on the islands of the eastern Aegean expressed concern as tensions are rising at detention centers and frequently escalating into brawls. The influx of migrants to the islands, which had all but stopped in recent weeks, following a deal between the European Union and Ankara to return migrants to Turkey, appears to have picked up again, unnerving authorities. A group of 120 migrants arrived on Chios Friday and another 25 on Lesvos.
Aid workers are warning that tensions in many detention centers frequently heighten as many migrants have been stuck in the same place for months either waiting for the outcome of their asylum applications or for their deportation.
On Thursday night, Moroccans, Algerians and Pakistanis clashed at a facility on Samos, some wielding knives and iron bars and setting fires. A similar brawl broke out at a center in Oraiokastro, northern Greece, following a riot at a Lesvos migrant facility on Wednesday.