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29 migrants rescued off small boat in trouble in the Mediterranean Sea south of Crete

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ATHENS, Greece (AP) — A group of 29 migrants was rescued Tuesday off a crippled boat in the Mediterranean Sea south of Crete, Greek authorities said, on an increasingly busy migration route from North Africa to Europe.

A coast guard statement said the boat was located about 23.5 nautical miles (27 miles, 43 kilometers) south of Gavdos, a small island off Crete’s southern coast, by a passing merchant ship after passengers made a distress call.

The migrants were being ferried to southern Crete. No information was immediately available on their health, nationality or port of embarkation.

Southern Crete and Gavdos, 27 nautical miles off the island, have seen a substantial increase in migrant arrivals this year. Most leave from the eastern Libyan port of Tobruk, having paid smuggling gangs up to $5,000 each.

According to United Nations data, more than 1,200 people have reached the area this year, out of a total of about 9,600 who arrived in Greece by sea.

On Sunday, another 74 people were rescued off a boat south of Gavdos, which is about 29 square kilometers (11 square miles) in size and has just a few dozen residents in the winter. Two of the people on the vessel were later arrested on suspicion of belonging to a migrant-smuggling gang.

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Follow AP’s coverage of migration issues at https://apnews.com/hub/migration

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