ATHENS, Greece (AP) — A search and rescue operation continued Friday off the coast of the Greek island of Crete for several people believed missing a day after a sailboat carrying dozens of migrants sank in high winds.
Greece’s coast guard said 37 people had been pulled to safety from the sea or the sinking boat by late Thursday. According to survivors, there had been about 45 people on board. The passengers’ nationalities, the boat’s original departure point and its intended destination weren’t immediately clear.
Three Greek boats were involved in Friday’s search, the coast guard said.
Turkey’s National Defense Ministry said two of its navy ships and one plane were deployed to join the mission in difficult sea and air conditions. The ministry said eight people were thought to be missing.
A ministry statement issued Friday said the sailboat sank 161 miles (259 kilometers) from the Turkish coastal town of Kas and about 60 miles (nearly 100 kilometers) south of the Greek island of Karpathos.
Greece is one of the preferred smuggling routes into the European Union for people fleeing conflict and poverty in the Middle East, Asia and Africa. The vast majority attempt to cross to Greek islands from the nearby Turkish coast in inflatable dinghies.
Separately Friday, Greek police said 11 people had been arrested for allegedly organizing the transport of migrants who crossed into Greece illegally over its land border with Turkey to the northern city of Thessaloniki using pickup trucks and luxury cars to try and avoid detection.
The EU’s Agency for Criminal Justice Cooperation said it has assisted in the investigation against the trafficking ring accused of transporting about 350 migrants in more than 50 transfers, charging 2,000-2,500 euros ($2,350-2,950) per person.
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