ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greek authorities said they picked up a group of 30 people from a wooden boat that lost direction and was drifting near the rocky coast of a small islet north of Crete, in the latest case of boats carrying migrants in difficulty in southern Greece.
The coast guard said on Tuesday it received a distress call from the boat on Monday as it sailed between Crete and the small island of Antikythera. The wooden motorboat was eventually located near the uninhabited islet of Gramvousa, just off the northwestern tip of Crete.
The 30 people on board, including nine minors and four women, were transported to Crete, the coast guard said. There was no immediate information about their nationalities.
It was the latest of several migrant boats that ran into trouble and ended up on the southern Greek islands in recent days. Over the weekend, the Coast Guard said it had picked up 69 people on Friday from a drifting sailboat and sent a distress signal 26 nautical miles (30 miles, 48 kilometers) south- west of the Ionian island of Zakythnos.
The boat had left the Turkish coast near Izmir on August 22 and was heading for Italy when it ran into trouble, the coast guard said.
The 69 – 61 people from Iran, two from Afghanistan and six from Turkey – were rescued by a passing cargo ship and taken to the southern coast of Kalamata on Saturday, the Coast Guard said. The six Turks were arrested on suspicion of migrant smuggling.
Earlier this month, around 240 people arrived on the southern island of Kythera on three sailing boats which had also departed from Turkey and were aimed directly at Italy.
For years, the preferred route for people fleeing conflict and poverty in the Middle East, Asia and Africa has been the much shorter sea route between Turkey and neighboring Greek islands in the eastern Aegean.
But with Greek authorities stepping up patrols in the region and facing persistent reports of pushbacks – summary and illegal deportations of new arrivals to Turkey without allowing them to seek asylum – more and more people are trying to circumvent Greece and head straight for Italy.
Greece denies carrying out pushbacks, but insists it is vigorously protecting its borders.
“No new tactics from the smugglers and no new maneuvers from Turkey will change our position,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said in a speech at the start of a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, where he also discussed migration.
“We are saving the innocent, we are protecting our borders and the other side should look at their own unguarded borders,” he said.
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