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Up to 50 missing after migrant boat sinks off Greece

#missing #migrant #boat #sinks #Greece

An air and sea rescue operation was underway on Wednesday after about 50 people went missing when a migrant boat sank in the Aegean Sea, the Greek Coast Guard said.

The ship sank at dawn off the islands of Karpathos and Rhodes after setting sail for Italy from Antalya in southern Turkey on Tuesday.

“According to 29 rescued people, there were 80 people on the boat, so up to 50 people are missing,” a coast guard spokesman told AFP.

However, state broadcaster ERT said the number of people on board was between 30 and 60.

Coast Guard spokesman Nikos Kokalas told the broadcaster: “It is not possible that the boat was carrying 80 migrants. We are talking about a lower number.”

The rescue effort, ordered by Merchant Shipping Minister Yannis Plakiotakis, included four vessels already cruising in the southern Aegean, two Coast Guard patrol boats and a Hellenic Air Force helicopter, according to a Coast Guard statement.

Strong winds of up to 50 kilometers per hour hampered operations, Kokalas told Skai Radio.

“Many of the castaways were not wearing life jackets,” Kokalas said.

A video posted by the Coast Guard showed an army helicopter rescuing two survivors from the sea and transferring them to Karpathos.

Another 27 people were taken aboard a tanker joining the search off the island of Kos, the Coast Guard said.

– dozens dead –

Although the migrant boat appears to have attempted to get to Italy, Greece is often the country of choice for people fleeing Africa and the Middle East to try and achieve a better life in the European Union.

Thousands enter Greece via Turkey via the narrow and dangerous sea bridge that separates traditional enemies.

According to the International Organization for Migration, 64 people have died in the eastern Mediterranean since January.

Eight people died off the Greek island of Mykonos on June 19 when 108 others were rescued, according to the UN migration agency.

The Greek Coast Guard said on Sunday 122 migrants were rescued near Rhodes after their ship ran into trouble after sailing from Turkey.

Athens says the number of migrant arrivals has risen this year and accuses Ankara of not doing enough to stop smugglers sending them across the border – often in flimsy boats that make for dangerous journeys.

Turkey has pledged under a 2016 deal to reduce the number of migrants leaving its shores in exchange for financial help from the European Union.

At the end of June, the EU called on Ankara to stop “violent and illegal evictions” from its territory.

Charities and the media accuse Athens of illegally turning back migrants, an accusation Greece’s conservative Greek government has denied.

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#missing #migrant #boat #sinks #Greece

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