Migrants in the Ionian Sea refuse to be rescued by the Greek coast guard

Only after dark, as the weather worsened, did the migrants agree to be rescued

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DThe Greek coast guard said on Sunday that migrants on a boat in the Ionian Sea refused to be rescued for fear of being illegally turned away.

A group of 56 asylum seekers were on a boat that got into trouble Saturday amid strong winds near the island of Kefalonia, the coast guard said. “Throughout the day, the migrants radioed that they would not accept any help from nearby boats or Greek authorities,” the coastguard said in a statement. It was only after dark, with the weather worsening, that the migrants agreed to be rescued by a Singapore-flagged tanker.

The Greek Coast Guard says it has rescued around 1,500 people in Greek waters since the start of the year. But human rights groups estimate that hundreds more have been illegally returned without being allowed to apply for asylum. Greece denies this claim.

The migrants were held at the port of Igoumenitsa and the search for other asylum seekers is still ongoing. Their nationalities were not immediately released.

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