Greek authorities say they rescued more than 164 people as they tried to sail to the Greek Islands from Turkey on Sunday. Eight others are still missing and are believed to have drowned.
The Greek coast guard said Sunday (June 19) it had rescued 108 migrants from a sailing boat that was found rudderless and leaking water in high winds in the Aegean. Eight others were still unaccounted for on Monday, after earlier reports said four people were missing. The migrants’ nationalities were not reported.
Reports had reached the coast guard late Saturday that a sailing boat was adrift about 1.8 nautical miles southeast of Delos, a small uninhabited island near Mykonos. It sent three rescue boats and a tugboat, which managed to tow the sailing boat to Mykonos port early on Sunday morning.
None of the 21 children, 24 women and 63 men on board the sailing boat had been wearing a life vest, and there was no life-saving equipment on board, authorities said. Port authority officials on Mykonos said Monday they had arrested six of the rescued migrants, according to the news website Ekathimerini.com.
The Greek coast guard released a video of the rescue operation.
In a separate incident, a sailing boat with 56 people on board arrived on the island of Rhodes on Sunday. The boat ran aground late afternoon and the migrants made it to shore on their own, according to news reports.
The Greek migration minister, Notis Mitarakis, said the 56 had been rescued by the coast guard. In a swipe at Turkey he tweeted that their boat had left Turkish shores "despite the Turkey-EU Joint Statement."
Balkan route 'active again'
Police in neighboring North Macedonia say the Balkan route for migrants has become more active in the past few months, after a lull caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and stricter border controls. The European border agency Frontex has also reported a considerable increase in irregular entries into the EU from the Western Balkans.
At the weekend, 71 migrants were discovered in two separate locations in North Macedonia, which is not a member of the European Union. Police believe both groups were trying to cross into Serbia on their way to EU countries.
A group of 44 Pakistani nationals and one person from India were found in a raid on a home in the northern town of Kumanovo late Saturday, the AP news agency reports. Police arrested the homeowner, a 41-year-old identified as 'U.F.'. The migrants had reportedly traveled to North Macedonia from Greece and were waiting to be smuggled to Serbia. They were transferred to a migrant center on the Serbian border, from where they will be deported, according to AP.
In the southern part of the country a group of 26 Syrian nationals were discovered hidden in a van on Sunday, police said. The van driver and his assistant, both reported to be Macedonians, were arrested after the van was stopped for a routine check at a highway toll station. The migrants were taken to a reception center near the Greek border and are to be returned to Greece, AP reports.