Reuters International

ATHENS (Reuters) - A boat carrying about 200 migrants which had sent out a distress signal off Crete on Monday was spotted safe and sailing to Italy, the Greek coast guard said.

Greece had ordered a Greek-flagged tanker and a Panama-flagged freighter earlier on Monday to search for the 25-metre long fishing vessel after it sent out a mayday signal about 80 nautical miles south of Crete and 15 nautical miles within Libyan waters.

Greece has not rescued the migrants because the boat was not in Greek territory and the passengers were safe, a coastguard official who declined to be named told Reuters.

It was not immediately known where the boat had set sail from.

Crete, Greece's southernmost island, lies north of Libya and Egypt. In recent weeks, the number of migrants heading to Italy from the African coast has grown as calmer weather sets in, and so has the number of boats that have lost their way and ended up near Crete.

Some 206,400 migrants and refugees have crossed the Mediterranean this year, according to the International Organization for Migration. So far, 2,809 deaths have been recorded, up from 1,838 during the same period last year.

About 320 migrants and refugees are feared to have drowned in a shipwreck off Crete earlier this month, from which 340 people were rescued. Survivors told authorities they had set sail from Egypt.

(Reporting by Angeliki Koutantou; Writing by Karolina Tagari; editing by Dominic Evans)

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