Europe

Over 130 migrants rescued from sinking boat near Crete

Coastguards help migrants disembark off boat in Ierapetra, Crete, on 9 July 2013
Image caption The migrants are believed to be of Syrian and Afghan origin

Greek coastguards rescued over 130 migrants from a sinking boat off the island of Crete on Tuesday.

The migrants, who were helped by passing boats, have been transferred to a town in the southeast of the island.

It comes a day after Pope Francis criticised the "indifference" of the world to the plight of immigrants trying to get to Europe by sea.

Greece is a key entry point for migrants trying to enter the European Union illegally.

The passengers raised the alarm by radio after their boat started to take on water, 55km (34 miles) southeast of the island of Koufonissi, south of Crete.

"They have disembarked at the port of Ierapetra and have been taken to an indoor gym. No injuries were reported," a spokeswoman for the Merchant Marine Ministry told the AFP news agency.

While there was no official confirmation of the nationalities on board, the Athens News Agency reports that a total of 77 men, 24 women and 38 children of Syrian and Afghan origin were rescued.

Greece is a major gateway for migrants from Asian and African countries as they try to enter the European Union. They tend to cross the border from Turkey or sail across the Mediterranean from North Africa.

Pope Francis made his comments on migrants during Mass on Monday in Italy's tiny island of Lampedusa. It was his first pastoral visit outside of Rome since his election in March.

Lampedusa, which lies about 120km (80 miles) from Tunisia, is one of the nearest gateways to Europe for Africans fleeing poverty and conflict.

It is is struggling to cope with thousands of illegal migrants.

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