Greek Coast Guard rescues 74 migrants from drowning, arrests two Turkish smugglers

ATHENS — Greek authorities announced on Monday that a sailing yacht crashed off the coast of western Greece with 74 migrants and two smugglers on board. After issuing a distress signal off the resort island of Zakynthos, the migrants were rescued and transported to a port in western Greece.

The crashed sailing yacht was discovered on Saturday.

In a statement, the Greek Coast Guard said two Turkish nationals on board the yacht had been arrested on suspicion of belonging to a gang smuggling migrants to Europe.

On board the ship were 48 men and 26 women of Syrian, Afghan, Iranian, and Turkish nationality.

Last week, another yacht carrying 96 people was discovered wrecked off the coast of the small island of Halki, near Rhodes.

Many of those rescued from the waters, including children, were not wearing life jackets.

The Greek Coast Guard described the effort as “one of the largest and most successful search and rescue operations to have taken place in the Aegean Sea”.

Turkey began operating free flights from Istanbul to Edirne, near the Greek border, for seven consecutive days in early March as part of a campaign to simultaneously pressure the European Union to accept Turkish foreign and domestic policy — seen by many EU leaders as at odds with EU interests — and to reduce the number of refugees living on its territory, despite multiple deals with the EU worth billions of euros to care for refugees in Turkey.