ATHENS, Greece (AP) — The Greek Coast Guard mounted a rescue operation on Tuesday for dozens of people crammed onto a sailboat anchored off the coast of an uninhabited island far from the country’s mainland, authorities said.
A private vessel had spotted the sailboat off the small island of Falconera, officials said. The island is located between Milos and the Peloponnese in an area known for strong currents and rough seas. There would be about 50 people on board. A Coast Guard helicopter was already on the scene, while four Coast Guard ships were on their way to the island.
Separately on Tuesday, 19 people were picked up from a dinghy that had lost control northeast of the eastern Aegean island of Samos.
In June, a battered trawler smuggling up to 750 people from Libya to Italy sank southwest of Greece in one of the Mediterranean’s worst migrant disasters in years. Only 104 people survived, while the Greek authorities were criticized for not intervening in time.
Greece has reported an increase in the number of people arriving in the country by sea in recent weeks. For decades, the country has been one of the preferred migration routes to the European Union for people fleeing conflict and poverty in the Middle East, Africa and Asia. The eastern islands near Turkey have long been a major entry point, but stricter deterrence policies in recent years have led to fewer arrivals.
But Greece has been heavily criticized for what human rights groups say is a systematic practice of illegally and clandestinely carrying out summary deportations of recent arrivals back to Turkey without allowing them to seek asylum. The government strongly denies carrying out such deportations.