Dozens Die In Migrant Shipwreck Near Greek Coast
TINOS, GREECE - APRIL 14: View of greek flag from ship leaving the port Tino island on April 14, 2021 in Tinos, Greece.
Athanasios Gioumpasis/Getty Images

At least 79 people drowned early Wednesday morning, and hundreds more are feared dead after an overcrowded boat of migrants sank in the Mediterranean Sea near Greece.

The shipwreck occurred 47 nautical miles from the Greek town of Pylos. Greek officials have rescued more than 100 passengers from the sea, housing them in nearby Kalamata. 

“According to the people, there were 750 people on board… We now hear reports of a shipwreck and fear they are true,” Alarm Phone, a trans-European network that supports rescue operations and vehemently opposes strong border policies, said on Twitter

According to the BBC, survivors spoke of as many as 500 to 700 people on the boat, with regional health director Yiannis Karvelis saying, “The number of the people on board was much higher than the capacity that should be allowed for this boat.”

The ship set sail from Tobruk, Libya, intending to reach Italy, according to Reuters. The vessel was 65-100 feet long and mostly carried young men from Egypt, Syria, and Pakistan. The shipwreck is the deadliest in Greece since 2015.

The Greek Coast Guard said the boat was first spotted late Tuesday by the E.U. border agency Frontex in international waters. Italian authorities alerted Greece of the boat’s presence, and the Greek Coast Guard approached the vessel and offered help. The Coast Guard said the migrants “refused assistance and stated their desire to continue their voyage.” A few hours later, the vessel veered from side to side before capsizing around 2:00 am. After the boat sank, the Coast Guard and military began a “wide-ranging search and rescue operation” looking for survivors and recovering the dead.

Greece is one of the main routes into Europe for migrants from the Middle East, Asia, and North Africa with its close proximity to Turkey. During the 2015-2016 immigration crisis, nearly 5.2 million migrants reached European shores, with 857,000 arriving in Greece. 

“The shipwreck brings to the fore once again, in the most tragic way, the need to dismantle the international smuggling rings that endanger the lives of migrants,” Greece’s Migration Ministry said Wednesday.


Since Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis introduced a tougher surveillance system at migrant camps, many migrants have taken more dangerous routes to Italy via Greece. United Nations data shows that 71,000 people arrived in southern Europe via sea this year, with nearly 6,500 arriving in Greece. More than 1,000 have died taking these sea routes this year. The country also took in 70,000 Ukrainian refugees in 2022.

Immigration was a key issue in the 2023 Greek Legislative Election. Mitsotakis defended his strict immigration policies, including expelling asylum seekers by sea and sending them to Turkey.

In 2022, a U.N. report found that migration deaths were at their highest since 2017, with 84% of those who died traveling from the Middle East and North Africa to Europe via sea routes going unidentified.

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