The Greek coast guard rescued 108 migrants from a sailboat that was found rudderless and leaking water in the Aegean Sea in near gale force winds, authorities said on Sunday.
The rescued migrants — 63 men, 24 women and 21 children — told the Greek authorities that four other people were missing.
Reports of a sailboat adrift off the uninhabited island of Delos reached the coast guard late Saturday, prompting it to dispatch three rescue vessels and a tugboat.
Early Sunday morning, rescuers managed to tow the sailboat to an islet off the nearby island of Mykonos, while the rescued migrants were safely transported to the island.
They told authorities that their boat had sailed from Turkey to an unknown destination.
“Once again, the coast guard saved lives that the ruthless trafficking networks have exposed to mortal danger without even the barest protection measures,” Shipping and Island Policy Minister Ioannis Plakiotakis said.
Macedonian route active again
In unrelated migration cases in the neighbouring country of North Macedonia, police said they discovered 71 migrants in two separate operations late Saturday and arrested three men suspected of human trafficking.
Police raided a home in the northern town of Kumanovo and found 44 Pakistanis and one person from India.
Police arrested the homeowner, a 41-year-old identified only by his initials as U.F.
The migrants are believed to have entered illegally from Greece and were waiting to be smuggled to Serbia on their way to unidentified EU countries.
They have been transferred to a migrant reception centre on the border with Serbia pending deportation.
In another case, police discovered 26 migrants from Syria hidden in a van during a routine check on a highway toll station in the southern part of the country.
The van driver and his assistant — both Macedonian nationals — were arrested, police said Sunday.
The migrants were transferred to a reception centre near the border with Greece pending deportation to that country.
Police say a branch of the Balkan route for migrants through North Macedonia has become more active again in the past few months after many countries lifted travel restrictions because of the COVID-19 pandemic.