Reluctant migrants rescued

About 200 illegal immigrants were transferred to a Greek passenger ship in the Ionian Sea yesterday, after initially refusing to be taken to a Greek port after their fishing boat broke down in choppy seas 75 nautical miles west of the island of Lefkada. A distress signal from the 25-meter wooden fishing boat was picked up Monday afternoon on the island of Corfu. Coast guard patrols, an air force C-130 and nearby ships went to the area, including the Athens Express passenger ship from Igoumenitsa. But despite almost 20 hours of negotiations with the coast guard, the immigrants refused to leave their boat, saying that they wanted to be allowed to sail to Italy. It was only after the arrival of the navy frigate Koundouriotis that the migrants relented and were transferred in small groups via inflatable craft to the Athens Express which was to take them to Igoumenitsa. Following reports that 2,000 Afghanis were apprehended trying to leave the Turkish coast, the Greek coast guardhas reportedly taken extra precautions to guard the sea lanes, channels and islands near the Turkish coast.

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