ATHENS, Greece — The Greek coast guard says more than two dozen people were picked up from a distressed sailboat far off the southwest coast of mainland Greece and transported to the southern city of Kalamata.
The Coast Guard said on Wednesday that the search and rescue center was notified Monday evening of a boat in trouble with 29 people on board, 84 nautical miles (about 96 miles, 155 kilometers) southwest of the town of Pilos, in the southern Peloponnese region. from Greece.
The passengers – 10 men, a woman and 18 minors from Afghanistan, Iran and Bangladesh – were picked up by a Norwegian-flagged research vessel and eventually transported to Kalamata, the coastguard said. Two of the passengers, both men from Iran, have been arrested on suspicion of smuggling. The Greek authorities will arrest anyone caught driving a boat with migrants and charge them with being smugglers.
The boat had departed from the Turkish coast, somewhere near the city of Izmir, and was likely bound for Italy, the coastguard said.
The most common sea route for asylum seekers from the Middle East and Africa was from Turkey to the nearby Greek islands. But the Greek authorities have been repeatedly and persistently accused of summarily deporting newcomers to Turkey without allowing them to apply for asylum, and many are now trying to bypass the Greek islands and take the much longer route directly to Italy. The Greek authorities deny carrying out illegal summary deportations of asylum seekers.