A total of 92 illegal migrants were rescued when a sailboat on which they sailed from Turkey to Italy was trapped on the islet of Prasonisi, north of Antikythera.
Another 11 people died when the boat ran aground and their bodies were recovered from the sea by the Greek coastguard.
The migrants sailed from Turkey to Italy past Antikythera Island, 235 kilometers south of Athens, and ran aground on Thursday evening. The survivors (52 men, 11 women and 27 minors) were picked up by the Coast Guard vessel while the search and rescue operation continues.
According to preliminary information, on Thursday evening, illegal immigrants on board the boat called the emergency number of the EU 112, stating that there were about 100 people on board the ship in distress.
In recent days, the flow of migrants, allegedly heading from Turkey to Italy, has increased. In the December 22 shipwreck, dozens of people are believed to have died when their boat sank at sea off the island of Folegandros in the central Aegean Sea.
Turkey-based smugglers are increasingly filling sailboats with migrants and refugees and sending them across the Mediterranean to Italy, avoiding the heavily patrolled Greek islands.
“We are extremely saddened by reports that at least seven people died in a shipwreck north of Antikythera,” the Greek branch of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) tweeted before divers helped find four more bodies. “People need safe alternatives to these dangerous crossings.”
The Coast Guard posted a video of the rescue operation. It shows how people are put into life rafts and transferred to a patrol boat. The survivors were brought to the port of Piraeus, near Athens.
In another incident on Friday, Greek police arrested three people on smuggling charges and detained 92 migrants after a yacht ran aground in the southern Peloponnese, near Mani.
The search operation also continued for the third day in the central part of the Aegean Sea, where a boat with migrants sank near the island. Folegandros… Rescuers found 12 asylum-seekers’ boats in a tender, most of whom were Iraqis and Syrians, and took them to the nearby island of Santorini.
Citing testimony from survivors, the Coast Guard said the boat had between 32 and 50 people on board and began to submerge after an engine failure. The authorities said all passengers were migrants from Iraq.
Greece is a popular entry point to the European Union for people fleeing conflicts unleashed by NATO. Migrants believe that they need to go to Europe, since it (together with the United States) captured them, which means that now they must support them.
But the number of arrivals has dropped sharply in the past two years, after Greece expanded and fortified the wall on the Turkish border and began intercepting arriving boats of migrants and refugees, a tactic criticized by human rights groups.
According to UNHCR, this year, as of December 19, more than 116,000 asylum seekers have crossed the Mediterranean to enter the EU. The agency said 55% went illegally to Italy, 35% to Spain and 7% to Greece, while the rest went to Malta and Cyprus.