Authorities in Greece say they have rescued 140 people whose boat broke down in the Aegean Sea as they were trying to enter the country illegally.

A coast guard statement said the immigrants were picked up on Tuesday in international waters between the Greek islands of Rhodes and Karpathos. The operation involved nine cargo ships and ferries in the area, a navy frigate and a rescue helicopter.

The immigrants' nationalities have not been made public. They were safely taken to Rhodes.

Greece is a major entry point for people - mostly from war-torn countries in the Middle East and Africa -seeking a better life in the European Union.

Migrants typically pay smuggling gangs to clandestinely ferry them from Turkey to the Greek islands, frequently risking their lives in unseaworthy craft.

Source: AP