GREECE: On early Wednesday, at least 59 migrants drowned, and more were feared missing after their overloaded boat collapsed and sank off Greece, making it the country’s biggest shipwreck this year, the coast guard stated.
By noon, 104 people had been saved, but it was still unknown how many passengers were on board when the ship sank, according to authorities.
Under the condition of anonymity, a shipping ministry official said, “We fear the death toll will rise.”
The boat was originally spotted late on Tuesday in international waters around 50 miles (80 km) southwest of Pylos, a coastal settlement in southern Greece, by EU border agency Frontex.
Then a coast guard ship approached the boat, which was headed for Italy, and offered assistance.
The vast majority of migrants on its outer deck “refused assistance and stated their desire to continue their voyage,” said the coast guard. A search and rescue effort was launched after the boat overturned and sank a short time later.
The majority of them on board were young males in their 20s, according to reports, and they left from the Libyan port city of Tobruk, which is south of the Greek island of Crete.
Greek authorities would not immediately identify its port of departure, but a shipping ministry spokesman said that the majority of individuals on board were from Pakistan, Syria, and Egypt. The survivors were sent to the town of Kalamata.
One of the main entry points into the European Union for refugees and migrants from the Middle East, Asia, and Africa is Greece, which is currently under caretaker rule ahead of a national election on June 25.
The majority of boats travel from Turkey to Greek islands nearby, but an increasing number make the longer, riskier trip from Turkey to Italy via Greece.
According to figures from the UN, over 72,000 refugees and migrants have entered the frontline nations of Europe—Italy, Spain, Greece, Malta, and Cyprus—so far this year, with Italy receiving the majority of them.