ATHENS: Greece’s coastguard on Tuesday was rescuing a fishing boat with up to 500 migrants onboard in strong winds southwest of Crete, a spokeswoman told AFP.
“The distress call said there are 400-500 people on board,” a coastguard spokeswoman told AFP, adding that the operation was hampered by near gale-force winds.
“They can see the boat, it’s adrift, there is a large number of people on board,” she added.
The coastguard said it had received the distress call shortly after midnight on Monday. Two nearby cargo ships, a tanker and two Italian fishing boats were lending assistance, it said.
Because of bolstered patrols by the Greek coastguard and EU border agency Frontex in the Aegean Sea, migrant smugglers are increasingly employing the longer and more perilous route south of Crete, Greek officials say.
“Eighty percent of flows from Turkey go straight to Italy,” Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi told Skai TV last week.