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Greek authorities say more than 400 migrants rescued from at least six boats near Cyprus have been taken to an “unsafe and unseaworthy” cargo ship that has been securing a port in the Greek town of Piraeus.
Several of the rescued migrants have told local officials that they were the victims of illegal operations, playing down Turkish claims that the boats had been picked up accidentally.
“The migrants are taken to an uninhabited ship, the Mytilene, that will continue to Piraeus,” the port authority said in a statement on Friday.
Greece’s migrant tragedy brings new urgency to issue of safe sea migration Read more
The Mivtachios cargo ship, sailing under a Liberian flag, has been blocking the Greek port’s marine area since Monday, blocking the transfer of migrants who have been stuck on the boats for two days.
Greece says the vessel is “unseaworthy”. Earlier it said those rescued were being transported in safety conditions aboard the Mytilene.
The US Coast Guard has launched an investigation into the incident in the Mediterranean. The migrants and refugees are believed to be from Iran, Iraq, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
An average of 600 to 700 people drown every year trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Europe. Most end up in Italian and Greek island territory, with more than three dozen dying so far this year.
More than 120,000 migrants landed in Italy last year, and most of them were rescued off the coast of Libya. More than 30,000 are currently in detention in Italy.
About 1.5 million refugees and migrants arrived in Greece over the past four years. Many live in crowded, unsanitary conditions in refugee camps as the country struggles to cope with one of the biggest refugee crises since the second world war.