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Another boat accident in Greece kills 13 migrants, several missing

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By Euronews  with AP
A Greek coastguard vessel approaches the port of Preveza, northwestern Greece
A Greek coastguard vessel approaches the port of Preveza, northwestern Greece   -   Copyright  Andriana Soldatou/mypreveza.gr via AP

At least 13 people died after a migrant boat capsized in the Aegean Sea late Friday, adding to the toll of as many as 27 casualties over the course of three days in several separate incidents in Greek waters.

Earlier, 11 people were confirmed dead after a sailboat Thursday struck a rocky islet near the island of Antikythera. The coast guard said Friday that 90 survivors ‒ 52 men, 11 women, and 27 children ‒ were rescued after spending hours on the islet.

In a separate incident Friday, Greek police arrested three people on smuggling charges and detained 92 migrants after a yacht ran aground in the southern Peloponnese region.

And a search operation also continued for the third day in the central Aegean, where a boat carrying migrants sank near the island of Folegandros, killing at least three people.

Thirteen others were rescued, and the survivors reported that at least 17 people were missing. Authorities said the passengers originally were from Iraq.

The latest sinking came as smugglers began to increasingly favour a perilous route from Turkey to Italy, which avoids Greece’s heavily patrolled eastern Aegean islands that for years were at the forefront of the country’s migration crisis.

The coast guard said 62 people were rescued after a sailboat capsized late Friday some 8 kilometres off the island of Paros. Survivors told the coast guard that about 80 people had been on the vessel.

Five coast guard patrol boats, nine private vessels, a helicopter, and a military transport plane continued the night-time search for more survivors, authorities said, while coast guard divers also participated.

Smugglers based in Turkey increasingly have packed yachts with migrants and refugees and sent them toward Italy.

“People need safe alternatives to these perilous crossings,” the Greek office of the United Nations Refugee Agency, UNHCR, said in a tweet.

Greece is a popular entry point into the European Union for people fleeing conflict and poverty in Asia, the Middle East, and Africa.

But arrivals dropped sharply in the last two years after Greece extended a wall at the Turkish border and began intercepting inbound boats carrying migrants and refugees ‒ a tactic criticized by human rights groups.

More than 116,000 asylum-seekers crossed the Mediterranean to reach EU countries this year as of December 19, according to UNHCR.

The agency said 55 per cent travelled illegally to Italy, 35 per cent to Spain, and 7 per cent to Greece, with the remainder heading to Malta and Cyprus.