Greece picks up 172 migrants in difficulty in Aegean

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Greek coastguards said Wednesday that 172 migrants had been picked up from a wooden fishing vessel that was struggling in heavy seas as it sought to reach Italy.

The operation, carried out by three patrol boats, unfolded on Tuesday off the island of Karpathos in the southeast Aegean in seas whipped by winds of up to 60 kilometers (37 miles) per hour, it said in a statement.

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The migrants were transferred to a Maltese-flagged freighter that was in the area.

“All are safe and sound and were transferred to the island of Kos on Wednesday morning,” a spokeswoman told AFP.

The vessel had set off from the Lebanese coast and was heading for Italy.

Migrant arrivals in Greece have risen sharply this year, especially from the country’s neighbor Turkey, with which it has fraught relations.

On Monday, Athens accused Turkish smugglers of trying to land 1,130 migrants on the Greek islands of Chios, Kos, Lesbos, Rhodes and Samos in the previous three days.

Merchant Navy Minister Yannis Plakiotakis accused Turkey of turning a blind eye to the trafficking.

“Turkey continues to behave like a pirate state violating international law and endangering the lives of unfortunate people,” he said.

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