Fishing boat carrying 283 migrants to Europe safely reaches southern Greek island

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — A fishing boat carrying nearly 300 migrants to Europe has safely reached a southern Greek island after a large rescue operation in the Mediterranean Sea, Greek authorities said Monday.

There were no immediate reports of injury or ill health among the 283 migrants, the coast guard said.

A coast guard statement said a search was launched before dawn Monday after authorities were notified that a vessel carrying migrants was hit by high winds south of Crete.

Two coast guard vessels, four merchant ships and two smaller private boats took part in the operation, and the migrant vessel was located 18 nautical miles (20 miles) south of Gavdos, a small island off southern Crete. The fishing boat was finally able to reach the port of Gavdos with its own engines, and the migrants safely disembarked.

There was no immediate information as to the nationalities of the migrants, or where they had departed from.

Tiny Gavdos in recent months has become an important destination for migrant boats crossing the Mediterranean from eastern Libya. Typically, people from the Middle East, Africa and Asia seeking a better life in Europe pay thousands of dollars to smugglers for a spot on the dangerous, overcrowded vessels.

In June 2023, a rusty trawler that was carrying an estimated 750 people from Tobruk in eastern Libya to Italy sank off southwestern Greece leaving hundreds feared drowned. Only 104 passengers survived, and 82 bodies were recovered.

The coast guard said the migrants who reached Gavdos Monday were transported to southern Crete, from which they would be taken to the western port town of Chania.