A rescue operation was underway on Tuesday (November 22) off the Greek island of Crete after a boat carrying up to 500 migrants sent out a distress signal overnight Monday-Tuesday, the coast guard said. Greeks. “We can see the boat. She is drifting. there are a large number of people on board”described a spokesman for the coast guard to Agence France-Presse (AFP), specifying that it would be 400 to 500 people, according to the distress call received by the authorities.
The operation was made difficult due to the strong winds blowing in this area located southwest of Crete, the largest island in Greece.
Two cargo ships, an oil tanker and two Italian fishing boats, were nearby to lend assistance, the coast guard reported.
A longer and more perilous road
Due to the reinforcement of patrols in the Aegean Sea by the Greek Coast Guard and the European Border Surveillance Agency (Frontex), migrant smugglers now take a longer and more dangerous route, south of Crete, to enter in the European Union.
But the human tragedies multiply because of the risks taken by the migrants, who board makeshift boats on a stormy, even raging sea, in autumn and winter.
On October 11, two shipwrecks off the islands of Lesbos and Kythera caused the death of at least thirty people.
According to data from the International Organization for Migration (IOM), 299 people have died or gone missing in the Eastern Mediterranean since the start of 2022, compared to a total of 111 last year.
Greece, Italy and Spain are among the main countries of arrival for migrants from Africa and the Middle East wishing to reach the European Union.