Greece shipwreck survivors arrive in Egypt

More than 2,500 migrants and refugees have drowned in the Mediterranean this year while trying to reach Europe, while upwards of 200,000 have arrived by sea (File Photo: AFP)

Thirty-one migrants who survived when their boat sank off Crete last week arrived in Egypt on Monday along with the bodies of nine people who died, police told AFP.

Two helicopters, three ships and a coastguard vessel scrambled after the makeshift boat sank off the Greek island on Friday with hundreds of people on board.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) said the vessel was “believed to have left Africa with at least 700 migrants on board”.

The Greek coastguard said on Friday night it had rescued 340 people and recovered nine bodies.

The survivors arriving in Egypt Monday were 26 Egyptians, two Sudanese, two Eritreans and an Ethiopian, a police official said.

Friday’s shipwreck suggests that people-traffickers are trying to open alternative sea routes to Europe that avoid a NATO naval force in the eastern waters between the Turkish coast and the nearby Greek islands of Lesbos and Chios.

Hundreds of thousands of refugees have reached Europe via that route since the start of last year. The flow has dramatically dropped since the arrival of the NATO force and a deal between Turkey and the European Union that entered force on March 20.

The EU-Turkey deal set the stage for a renewed effort by Ankara to stop clandestine migrants setting off from the Turkish coast, in exchange for political and financial support from the EU.

It also allowed for migrants including Syrian asylum-seekers who had arrived in Greece to be sent back to Turkey.

Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:47 - GMT 06:47