The Greek coastguard launched a search and rescue operation on Friday after a boat carrying about 150 people, believed to be migrants, got into trouble off the country’s southwestern coast.
The Coast Guard said a passing cargo ship raised the alarm when it bumped into a half-sunken wooden boat about 70 nautical miles (130 km) southwest of the islet of Shiza off the coast of the Peloponnese. The passengers of the boat were picked up by a cargo ship – the tanker Aristofanis flying the flag of the Marshall Islands.
A Coast Guard patrol boat, one Air Force helicopter and one Navy helicopter were thrown into the area and continued their search and rescue operation after a crew member of a cargo ship told authorities that he saw a woman fall into the sea …
“Aristophanis” was heading to the island of Crete, where the migrants were to land. The Coast Guard said there was no information about their nationality, or where they sailed from or where they were going.
Greece is one of the most popular entry points to the European Union for people fleeing conflict and poverty in the Middle East, Africa and Asia. But as Greek authorities take harsh measures against those arriving in the eastern islands from the nearby Turkish coast, smugglers seem to increasingly use larger ships to ferry people through Greece directly to Italy.