700 migrants begin disembarking on Greek island of Crete
IERAPETRA, Greece - Agence France-Presse
Migrants arrive at the Cretan port of Ierapetra on November 27, 2014. AFP PhotoAround 700 migrants aboard a freighter that had been drifting in the Aegean Sea for two days began disembarking on the Greek island of Crete on Nov. 27, local officials said.
The migrants from Syria, Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq, include "a lot of women and children", said Theodosis Kalantzakis, the mayor of Ierapetra.
The Kiribati-flagged freighter Baris was towed to a port at Ierapetra after suffering engine failure on Tuesday.
A team of doctors boarded the vessel and are inspecting the passengers before they are allowed to disembark, he added.
None of them have required hospitalisation so far, a medical source said.
However, a pregnant woman on board the ship was airlifted to Britain by a Greek navy helicopter on Tuesday.
The town authorities are planning to temporarily house the migrants in a 1,000-seat basketball stadium, the mayor of Ierapetra said.
However, the small town of 20,000 lacks the means to accommodate them beyond a week, he added.
The 77-meter Baris issued a distress call on Tuesday as it sailed some 30 nautical miles (56 kilometres) southeast of Crete.
Greece is one of the main points of entry into the European Union for people fleeing war-torn and poor countries in Africa, the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent.
Many of the recent arrivals are escaping the war in Syria, where more than 200,000 people have been killed, according to UN figures.
Some 28,000 Syrians have been caught illegally entering Greece since January, compared to just 8,500 last year.
Around 200 Syrians are currently staging a protest at Athens' central Syntagma Square to demand housing from the Greek authorities, after spending the previous months sleeping in parks or on the street.
Several among them are on hunger strike, and nine have already been hospitalised after fainting.
People traffickers are increasingly using Greece's Aegean islands to smuggle migrants into Europe after the building of a fence and tighter controls along the Greek-Turkish land border.