Coast guard officers off the island of Crete were keeping a close watch yesterday on an Egyptian trawler that had issued a distress call while carrying dozens of illegal immigrants. A Merchant Marine Ministry announcement said some 80 illegal immigrants were believed to be on board the fishing vessel which, according to the signal, started taking in water in high seas some 16 miles southeast of Kali Limenes, in central southern Crete. Two Super Puma rescue helicopters and a couple of open-sea patrol boats were sent to offer assistance. But it emerged that the vessel was in a position to continue under its own steam. The trawler entered Greek waters, and was heading for the small port of Aghia Galini late in the evening. Southern Crete is a common destination for Egyptian migrant-smugglers. In April and May, over 500 illegal migrants were arrested in the area.