Immigrant Ship Arrives in Crete

03.Jan.02,  first published by Associated Press: read the original article here.

ATHENS, Greece (AP) - More than 200 illegal immigrants whose ship broke down in rough seas arrived safely on a Greek island Thursday, a day after their children were evacuated from the craft by helicopters.

Authorities arrested two crew members, whose identities and nationalities were not immediately released, and confiscated the 132-foot Aldin Kaptan, Greece's merchant marine ministry said.

The ship lost power in international waters late Tuesday and sent out a distress signal. The crew of a British navy survey vessel repaired one engine, and the ship headed for the southern island of Crete, slowed by high waves.

When it hadn't reached the island Wednesday, Greece organized an airlift of 43 sick or very young passengers, at least six of whom were hospitalized.

On Thursday, the ship was towed to the port of Ierapetra, in southern Crete, with 203 people still on board, most Iraqi Kurds.

Thousands of immigrants attempt to make their way from Turkey to Greece and Italy each year in cargo ships, fishing boats or sailing yachts.

Last month, the Greek coast guard found 193 immigrants on the central Aegean islet of Gioura after their wooden fishing vessel sank. Most were Iraqi Kurds, but the group included Pakistanis, Chinese, Moroccans and an Afghan.

On New Year's Eve in 1998, at least 12 immigrants drowned in the eastern Aegean after their boat was swamped in high seas.