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Greek Coastguard Rescue Hundreds Of Migrants Sinking In Med

(REUTERS) – More than 200 migrants were rescued in the south Aegean Sea off the island of Crete after their boat sank, Greece’s coastguard said on Friday.

“So far about 250 people have been rescued, based on the first data,” coastguard spokesman Nikos Lagkadianos told Skai TV, adding that weather conditions were good.

He said it was not clear how many were aboard the vessel but that based on a first assessment it was unlikely to have carried many more than those rescued so far.

A woman pulls a corner of her headscarf as she stands with refugees and migrants upon their arrival with a boat near the village of Finokalia in the southern Greek island of Crete on May 31, 2016. More than 2,500 people have died trying to make the perilous journey across the Mediterranean sea to Europe so far in 2016, the UN said on May 31, a sharp jump from the same period last year. At the same time some 204,000 migrants and refugees have crossed the Mediterranean to the continent since January, a figure that has also climbed acutely.   / AFP / STR        (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)

A woman pulls a corner of her headscarf as she stands with refugees and migrants upon their arrival with a boat near the village of Finokalia in the southern Greek island of Crete on May 31, 2016. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

Fleeing war, thousands of mainly Syrian refugees have braved rough seas this year to make the short but precarious journey from Turkey to Greece’s islands, from which most continue to mainland Greece and northward into wealthier western Europe.

However, Crete, Greece’s southernmost island, lies north of Libya and Egypt. A group of 113 mostly Afghan migrants has landed on the island on Wednesday, the first big arrival on the island since the migrant crisis began.

Warm weather and calmer seas in the Mediterranean have led to a surge in recent weeks in the number of people trying to cross to Italy from Libya, where people-smugglers operate with relative impunity.

Boats on this much longer journey risk being blown off course to islands such as Crete

(Reporting by George Georgiopoulos and Angeliki Koutantou Editing by Jeremy Gaunt.)

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