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Up to 50 migrants missing after boat sinks off Greek coast

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An air and sea rescue was underway on Wednesday after about 50 people went missing when a migrant boat sank in the Aegean Sea, the Greek coast guard said.

The ship sank at dawn off the islands of Karpathos and Rhodes after departing from Antalya, southern Turkey, on Tuesday, bound for Italy.

“According to the statements of 29 rescued people, there were 80 people on the boat, so up to 50 people are missing,” a Coast Guard official told AFP.

According to a statement from the Coast Guard, the rescue operation, ordered by Minister of the Merchant Navy Yannis Plakiotakis, involved four ships already sailing in the southern Aegean Sea, two Coast Guard patrol boats and a Hellenic Air Force helicopter.

However, high winds of up to 50 kilometers per hour (30 mph) hampered the operation, coast guard spokesman Nikos Kokalas told Skai radio.

“Many of the castaways were not wearing life jackets,” Kokolas said.

Although the boat seems to have tried to reach Italy, Greece is often the country of choice for migrants fleeing Africa and the Middle East to try to get a better life in the European Union.

Thousands come to Greece via Turkey over the narrow and dangerous crossing that separates the traditional enemies.

Sixty-four people have died in the Eastern Mediterranean since January International Organization for Migration say.

Eight people died off the Greek island of Mykonos on June 19, when 108 more were rescued, according to the UN Migration Body.

The Greek coast guard said on Sunday that 122 migrants have been rescued near Rhodes after their ship ran into trouble after departing from Turkey.

Athens says the number of migrant arrivals has risen this year and accuses Ankara of not doing enough to prevent smugglers from sending them across the border — often in flimsy boats making dangerous journeys.

Turkey pledged under a 2016 agreement to reduce the number of migrants leaving its shores in return for financial aid from the European Union.

In late June, the EU urged Ankara to end “violent and illegal evictions” from its territory.

Charitable groups and media accuse Athens of illegally returning migrants, a charge that Greece’s conservative government has denied.

(AFP)

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