From file: Many migrants have arrived on the shores of Greece's Eastern Aegean islands | Photo: AFP/L.Gouliamaki
From file: Many migrants have arrived on the shores of Greece's Eastern Aegean islands | Photo: AFP/L.Gouliamaki

At least one man drowned after a migrant boat sank off the Greek island of Folegandros, dozens remain missing. Twelve migrants were rescued and taken to hopital, the coast guard said.

A massive search and rescue operation was underway off the Greek island of Folegandros on Wednesday (December 21), after a migrant boat carrying up to 50 people sank. At least one person was found dead, local authorities said.

The Greek coast guard said that they rescued 12 people, including children. They were reportedly taken to a hospital on the nearby island of Santorini. Those rescued hailed from Iraq (7), Syria (3) and Egypt (2), according to news agency AFP.

Citing testimonies from survivors, the coast guard said the boat was carrying between 32 and 50 people. It reportedly started taking in water after suffering an engine failure near Folegandros, a small island in the Aegean Sea.

The search and rescue operation began late Tuesday, after the coast guard received information that a vessel carrying migrants had run into trouble.

Four coastguard vessels, two helicopters, a military transport plane, five nearby ships and three private vessels were all taking part in the search and rescue operation, the coast guard said.

Uncommon migrant route

Tens of thousands of refugees and migrants attempt to reach the European Union by crossing to Greece from Turkey on small boats each year. However, Folegandros is not along the typical route. It's part of the Cyclades cluster of islands in the middle of the Aegean, located roughly 290 kilometers south-west of Lesbos, much further from Turkish shores than the eastern Aegean Islands where migrant boats usually land.

Hundreds of people have drowned in the Aegean Sea trying to make the perilous crossing on small rubber boats. According to the UN migration agency's Missing Migrants project, at least 1,783 people have died on the eastern Mediterranean route since 2014, many of them were headed towards Greece.

About 8,500 asylum seekers have arrived in Greece so far this year, most of them through its northeastern land border with Turkey, according to UN refugee agency UNHCR. Data from the Aegean Boat Report shows that 3,927 people arrived on the Greek Islands between January 1 and December 22 of this year, while 23,733 people were stopped by the Turkish coast guard or Turkish police and prevented from crossing. 

Also read: Two migrants drown off Greek island Kos

With AFP, Reuters


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