Athens: A Dutch-flagged vessel rescued 241 immigrants stranded on a wooden boat about 30 miles off the Greek island of Corfu and coastguards are searching for 22 missing migrants, coastguards said on Sunday.
Greece has become the main gateway to the European Union for illegal migrants and asylum seekers. Over the past year migrants have increasingly chosen the safer land route via Turkey rather than crossing the sea on rickety boats.
"Searches are now being conducted by five vessels and search and rescue helicopters looking for 22 people who are missing according to statements making by those rescued," the Greek coastguards said in a statement.
The migrants rescued are all well and say they are Afghans, said a coastguard official who declined to be named. They called for help late in the evening and were found at about 0230 local time (7:30 pm EST).
An estimated half a million illegal immigrants and asylum seekers live in the Mediterranean state of about 11 million inhabitants, and an increasing share of those trying to reach the EU come in through Greece.
First Published: Sunday, January 16, 2011, 09:11