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Refugees continue to cross Aegean Sea in forbidding conditions

“You are now in Greece.” I had to repeat myself several times before the Afghan man believed me.

When it sank in his relief was obvious and he looked to the heavens and gave thanks.

He had just stepped off a rescue ship onto the remote Greek island of Agathonisi.

He and the 37 other Afghans he was travelling with nearly didn’t make it. They spent seven hours adrift in the Aegean Sea after the outboard on their rubber dinghy broke down.

Luckily for them they showed up on the radar on board a ship operated by the charity Migrant Offshore Aid Station.

The rescue ship operated by the charity Migrant Offshore Aid Station. Credit: ITV News/Sean Swan

The experienced crew maneuvered the ship alongside the dinghy and the Afghans were able to clamber on board.

Afghans climb aboard a rescue ship operated by the charity Migrant Offshore Aid Station. Credit: Jason Florio/MOAS.eu

Sadly not all those in peril on the Aegean Sea are as fortunate as these Afghans were.

In January, more than two hundred migrants drowned trying to make the crossing from Turkey.

Stumbling across the rocks close to the Agathonisi shoreline we came across 36 Syrians who had just been dropped off by a Turkish smuggler who had charged them 1,500 euros each.

His journey to Greece and back took just over an hour. The trip earned him a total of 54,000 euros.

The Aegean in winter is a daunting prospect. That people fleeing war-torn countries are still trying to make the crossing in forbidding conditions tells you all you need to know about their craving to reach safety.

Afghan refugees pictured after being rescued from a rubber dinghy. Credit: ITV News/Sean Swan