Greek authorities on Monday charged six of the 108 migrants rescued off Mykonos in a rudderless sailboat over the weekend with illegally transporting third country nationals.
Charges against the group also included causing a shipwreck and forming a criminal organization. The announcement came a day after the Greek Coast Guard rescued the migrants from the boat, including 63 men, 24 women, and 21 children. Officials had received a distress signal from the vessel; none of those on board was wearing a life vest, the Coast Guard said. Their nationalities are unknown.
Four still missing
A rescue operation continues for four migrants who are still missing, including three children, officials said.
Authorities also released a short video clip of the rescue operation.
A coast guard vessel discovered the boat about less than two nautical miles southeast of Delos near Mykonos. Due to strong winds and incoming water on the migrants’ vessel, a tow boat pulled the sailboat to the Agios Georgios islet west of Mykonos from where the migrants were transferred to Mykonos port.
After the rescue, Greek Shipping Minister Yannis Plakiotakis was quoted as saying, “Once more, Greece’s coast guard saved lives that ruthless migrant trafficker rings expose to fatal danger without any protection measures.”
Minister of Migration and Asylum Notis Mitarakis said the population of migrants on the North Aegean islands dropped from 6.41 percent of the total population in March 2021 to just 1.13 percent in March 2022.
“All regions of the country are well below the 1 [percent] threshold we had set as our target in 2019; soon the North Aegean will follow suit,” he said in April. The largest decrease is recorded among residents in Samos by 90 percent, followed by Chios with 80 percent, Lesvos with 78 percent, Leros with 72 percent, and Kos with 23 percent.
He added: “The strict but fair migration policy that we apply consistently, has allowed us, today, to draw a very different map concerning migration. The substantial decongestion of the islands, the mainland and the large urban centers continues. Now, we are leaving the migration crisis behind us for good.”
However, Greece has also been accused of recently tightening its borders to the east by employing the unlawful tactic of pushbacks while enthusiastically endorsing the EU’s decision to welcome and accommodate refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine.
The Greek government has consistently denied it engages in pushbacks. An investigation by Greece’s national transparency watchdog said in late March it found no basis for reports of migrant pushbacks by Greek authorities.
The latest instance of a migrant boat rescue in Greek waters comes as the country is hosting Refugee Week Greece, a community-led arts festival. The event, which began on June 20th, coincided with World Refugee Day, an international day designated by the United Nations to honor refugees worldwide. Organizers said it is an occasion to build empathy and understanding for their plight and to recognize their resilience in rebuilding their lives.