A major search and rescue operation took place in the eastern Aegean Sea on Tuesday night, after authorities received an emergency call from a migrant boat.
The Hellenic Coast Guard said authorities received a distress call from the passengers on the vessel. There was no immediate information as to what kind of vessel it was, how many people were on board or what their nationalities were.
Later they reported that 92 people had been rescued from the sea west of the small island of Halki, near Rhodes.
Rescue crews including five nearby vessels, two military helicopters, one navy ship and five coast guard vessels, were continuing to search for others.
It is recalled last week a New York Times article claimed that the Greek Coast Guard had abandoned migrants at sea. In response, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said that Greece had been a victim of a misinformation campaign. This is part of Turkey’s efforts to “weaponise the migration issue,” he pointed out, as Europe saw at the Evros borders between the two countries. It also insults the Greek Coast Guard, which has saved tens of thousands of lives in the sea and the Greek islands that took so many migrants in.
“Greece is a country that respects international rules. We have granted asylum to tens of thousands of people and helped them integrate in Greek society. We are working with Europe on a new pact on immigration and refugees. We want the Europeans to be our partners in this effort. We do not want to be left alone in managing this problem. We are the first country to organise returns of migrants whose asylum applications have been rejected, in tandem with the International Migration Organisation. We have a comprehensive migration/refugee strategy, which at its premise has the need to protect both our land and sea borders,” he concluded.
Illegal migratory flows to the Greek islands is down 83% compared to 2019. Tens of thousands of refugees and migrants, including thousands of unaccompanied children, are living in squalid conditions in overcrowded camps on several Greek islands after arriving from the nearby Turkish coast.