Greece rescues 42 migrants off Crete, searches for three missing

By Thomson Reuters May 16, 2024 | 7:59 AM

ATHENS (Reuters) – Greece rescued 42 migrants off the island of Crete and was looking for three believed to be missing after their boat sent a distress signal while at sea, the Greek coastguard said on Thursday.

A coastguard official said the migrants were rescued by commercial vessels and a Greek navy helicopter some 27 nautical miles southwest of Crete.

It was not clear what happened to their boat, the official told Reuters on condition of anonymity, adding that a search and rescue operation for the missing was under way.

The island of Crete and its tiny neighbour Gavdos, Europe’s southernmost tip, have seen a surge in arrivals of migrants looking to cross to Europe from Libya in recent months.

The Greek government has pledged money and staff to help the ill-equipped islands handle the situation.

Greece has been a favoured gateway to the European Union for migrants and refugees from the Middle East, Africa and Asia since 2015 when nearly 1 million people landed on its islands, causing an unprecedented humanitarian crisis. Thousands of others have died at sea.

Until recently, migrants had preferred islands further east near Turkey over Crete and Gavdos.

(Reporting by Lefteris Papadimas and Renee Maltezou; Editing by Angeliki Koutantou and Christina Fincher)