(Crete, Greece) – The Greek Coast Guard reported that a ship that was suspected to be carrying migrants has launched a distress call. The ship was transporting roughly 200 people through international waters near the Greek island of Crete. Despite the fact that the waters are officially under Libya’s search and rescue jurisdiction, the coast guard in Greece was asked to lend a hand.
Two ships ended up lending a hand in helping the distressed ship. One was a tanker that was bearing a Greek flag, and the other was a cargo ship from Panama. They began heading to the area where the distress call was sounded after the Greek coast guard asked the ships for help. The two ships found the vessel and escorted the people to safety.
The international waters near Crete are a hotspot of activity for migrant vessels. In the past few weeks, hundreds of people have died in the southern Mediterranean Sea because of shipwrecks. Many of the boats are small and overcrowded and most of them are usually headed to Italy. Many of the boats have sunk in North Africa as they make their way to Europe. At the end of May in 2016, there were 700 reported deaths accounted for over a period of three days due to sinking vessels in the Mediterranean.
Greece has been stepping up its efforts to respond to these distress calls and there have also been many successful rescues in recent weeks. A new lifeboat station on the island of Chios opened recently. It was built in partnership with the KNRM, which is an organization based out of Norway that is devoted to promoting safety in the seas. There are currently over 50,000 migrants living in state run and makeshift camps throughout Greece, many of which have applied for asylum and are dealing with long wait times.