Skip to main content

Greece and Turkey search for missing people after boat sinks off Crete coast

Authorities are searching for eight people after accident involving a boat carrying refugees mostly from Iraq and Syria
Survivors of the accident disembark from a Greek coast guard vessel at the port of Ierapetra on Crete, 23 July 2021 (AFP)

Greek and Turkish coastguards are searching for at least eight people who remain missing after a boat carrying 45 people sank off the coast of Crete.  

Greek police picked up 37 survivors after the boat, carrying refugees mostly from Iraq and Syria, sank on Thursday. Five of those rescued were taken to the Greek island of Karpathos, while 30 others were transported to the town of Ierapetra in southeast Crete. 

Turkey's Defence Ministry said two Turkish frigates and a maritime patrol aircraft were also searching for the missing people.

Smuggling network foiled 

This latest incident comes after Greek police and Europol broke up an international smuggling network operating in Greece, Hungary and Bulgaria. Greek police said the network smuggled at least 350 people into Greece for between €2,000 and €2,500 per person. 

Police believe the smugglers brought the refugees and migrants over from Turkey and through the Evros region in northern Greece.

"The criminal group used vehicles which had been registered in Bulgaria and sometimes in Georgia," Europol said, adding that they concealed people in the boot of cars. 

"The cars were then transported to northern Greece and Hungary, where they were used to smuggle migrants while driving at up to 250 kilometres per hour [155 miles per hour] to avoid police detection."

Europol added that three simultaneous raids on Tuesday led to 12 arrests: of six people in Bulgaria, five in Greece and one in Hungary. Those arrested included leaders of the smuggling network. 

Last year, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that his country could not take any more refugees from Syria, leading to a new wave of attempts by people to cross into Greece at Evros.