Middle East

Cruise ship rescues 111 migrants off Greece

A Maltese-registered cruise ship sailing close to the Greek mainland has rescued more than a hundred migrants, the country’s coastguard said on Sunday.

The migrants were picked up by the Marella Discovery, an 11-deck luxury liner equipped with swimming pools, a casino and theater.

The migrants’ boat was found in distress on Saturday evening, some 74 kilometers (40 nautical miles) off Greece’s Peloponnese peninsula.

Read more: Alleged migrant smugglers arrested on Greek islands

Of the 111 people on board, 33 were children.

The coastguard did not say which countries the migrants were from or where their boat departed.

Migrants taken to Greek port

The passengers were taken to the Greek port of Kalamata.

Two of the migrant boat’s operators were arrested.

Several times a week, boatloads of migrants — many from Africa — attempt to cross the Mediterranean Sea for a better life in Europe.

Greece, Italy and Spain have borne the brunt of the influx of newcomers over the past decade, many of whom are picked up by migrant rescue ships operated by European charities.

A failure by European Union states to agree an effective disembarkation procedure has prompted Italy’s populist government to ban several migrant ships from docking at the country’s ports.

Read more: Refugees sent to Libya under EU deal face ‘catastrophic’ conditions

Migrant crossings falling

Although the number of migrants attempting the perilous journey has fallen from 362,000 in 2016 to 116,000 in 2018, an average of six migrants die every day in the Mediterranean, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees reports.

Already this year, at least 426 men, women and children have died during the crossing, according to the French medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF).

MSF and the NGO SOS Mediterranee on Sunday announced they would resume migrant rescues with the 69-meter Ocean Viking ship.

The two group’s previous ship, Aquarius, discontinued its work in December following hostility from several European governments.

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