Adrift freighter carrying migrants towed to Greek island
ATHENS, Greece (AP) — A small cargo ship carrying 382 people, almost all migrants, has been towed to the Greek island of Kos and 375 of the passengers moved to a special migrant facility, Greece’s Ministry of Migration and Asylum announced.
One woman was transferred to a health center in the nearby island of Karpathos, while six people heve been detained for questioning. Asylum requests are being processed, the ministry added.
All passengers will be quarantined, the ministry said, adding that their stay on the island will be temporary.
The Turkish-flagged freighter was located off the island of Greece Friday and towed to a “safe anchorage” off Kos, close to the Turkish coast, on Saturday.
Coast guard officials have said the boat’s passengers are mostly male and mostly from Afghanistan. Sunday’s announcement made no mention of the passengers’ ethnicity.
Greece has made a formal request to Turkey to take back the ship, which, according to the coast guard, sailed from the Turkish coast and was headed to Italy.
“We have notified the EU that Turkey is refusing to take their vessel back. ... It is time for the EU to act and provide impactful solidarity and ensure the EU/Turkey statement is upheld,” Migration and Asylum Minister Notis Mitarakis said on his Twitter account.
The EU and Turkey have signed an agreement which obliges Turkey to take back those migrants crossing into the EU from its territory that are not granted asylum. But Turkey, which itself now hosts over 3 million migrants, continues to be reluctant and is using the issue for political leverage.