ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece’s coast guard says more than two dozen people have been picked up from a sailboat in distress far off the southwestern coast of the Greek mainland and have been transported to the southern city of Kalamata.
The coast guard said on Wednesday that its search and rescue center was notified Monday night about a boat in trouble with 29 people on board, 84 nautical miles (about 96 miles, 155 kilometers) southwest of the town of Pilos, in Greece’s southern Peloponnese region.
The passengers — 10 men, one woman and 18 minors from Afghanistan, Iran and Bangladesh — were picked up by a Norwegian-flagged research vessel, and were eventually transported to Kalamata, the coast guard said. Two of those on board, both men from Iran, were arrested on suspicion of having acted as smugglers. Greek authorities will arrest anyone found piloting a boat carrying migrants and charge them as smugglers.
The boat had set sail from the Turkish coast, somewhere near the city of Izmir, and was likely heading to Italy, the coast guard said.
The more common sea route for asylum-seekers from the Middle East and Africa has been from Turkey to the nearby Greek islands. But Greek authorities have faced repeated and persistent accusations of summarily deporting new arrivals back to Turkey without allowing them to apply for asylum, and many are now trying to skirt the Greek islands, taking the much longer route straight to Italy. Greek authorities deny they carry out illegal summary deportations of asylum-seekers.