Dozens drown in deadliest migrant shipwreck off Greece this year Dozens drown in deadliest migrant shipwreck off Greece this year 

Dozens of migrants drown in Greek shipwreck tragedy

Authorities in Greece say at least 59 migrants have drowned and more are feared missing after their overloaded boat capsized and sank off Greece in the country's deadliest shipwreck this year. More than 100 have been rescued, but search and recovery operations continue.

By Stefan J. Bos

Over a hundred migrants, some struggling to walk, disembarked from a ship in the Greek town of Kalamata, where ambulances awaited the injured.

They were among the lucky ones. Scores of other people fleeing war, persecution, and poverty drowned in Greece's deadliest shipping disaster this year.

More fleeing migrants were still missing after their overloaded boat capsized and sank off the Greece coast.

Greek officials and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said hundreds of people could have been on board.

Officials said the vessel was first seen late Tuesday by the European Union border agency Frontex in international waters around 50 miles (80 kilometers) southwest of the southern Greek coastal town of Pylos.

The Greek coast guard said the many migrants on its outer deck "refused assistance and stated their desire to continue their voyage." It added that none on board were wearing life jackets.

Boat capsized

A few hours later, the boat capsized and sank, triggering a search and rescue operation, which was then complicated by strong winds. The operation involved six Coast Guard vessels, a naval warship, a military transport aircraft and an Air Force helicopter, several private vessels as well as a Frontex drone.

The boat with migrants was reported en route to Italy from the Libyan town of Tobruk, which lies south of the Greek island of Crete. Authorities said most on board were young men in their 20s from Egypt, Syria, and Pakistan.

They had been hoping to be among the 72,000 refugees and migrants who authorities said arrived so far this year in Europe's frontline countries Italy, Spain, Greece, Malta, and Cyprus.

Most migrants cross to Greek islands from nearby Turkey, but many boats also undertake a longer and more dangerous journey to Italy via Greece.

The U.N.'s International Organization for Migration said Wednesday's tragedy in the Aegean Sea underscored the need for more pathways to legal migration.

However, the EU's Frontex agency said organized crime groups are taking advantage of the political volatility in some departure countries to increase the number of migrants they smuggle across EU borders.

Listen to Stefan Bos' report

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15 June 2023, 09:54