Egypt Independent

EU marine intercepts migrants sailing from Egypt

Athens–An EU marine patrol on Saturday intercepted around 100 migrants near the Greek island of Crete as they attempted to sail from Egypt to Italy, the Greek coastguard said.

"A distress signal was initially sent to the Italian authorities in Rome," a coastguard spokeswoman told AFP.

"There was an initial search near Malta until an Icelandic patrol vessel from (EU border agency) Frontex found them near Crete," she said.

The sailboat was located some 85 nautical miles (100 miles) from the town of Paleohora in southern Crete.

The migrants claim there are 95 people on board but the cause of the distress call was not immediately clear, and their nationalities are also unknown at this point, the spokeswoman said.

"We know the group includes mostly men but that there are also women and children," she added.

"They are now in the process of transferring onto the Frontex vessel, and authorities have not yet decided where they will be taken for health tests," the officer said.

Local weather conditions are reported to be mild.

Greece last year secured the assistance of Frontex to thwart an overwhelming surge of arrivals from Africa and Asia.

Though not an EU member, Iceland is contributing to the EU patrol force.

Frontex patrols have made a major impact on smuggling networks which until now had extensively taken advantage of Greece's porous marine frontier.