Greece’s coastguard on Thursday rescued 85 illegal immigrants — among them women and children — off the Greek island of Astypalaia in the southeastern Aegean Sea.

The immigrants, who had been attempting to enter Greece from neighbouring Turkey, had issued a distress call after the vessel in which they were travelling encountered hail and strong winds, officials confirmed.

Four coast guard vessels, one Hellenic Navy frigate and two cargo ships formed a rescue operation that lasted all night.

The nationalities of the immigrants were not immediately clear.

Greece is a major entry point to the European Union for illegal migrants from Asia and Africa, with the country registering more than 1 million immigrant arrivals over the last decade.

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