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Greek Coast Guard Rescues Dozens of Migrants Stuck on Islet

There are now more than 58,000 migrants and refugees in Greece
By The News · 19 of August 2016 13:33:57
Refugees prepare to cross a street as they leave a building of the Greek Asylum service in Athens, on Friday, Aug. 19, 2016, No available, photo: AP/Yorgos Karahalis

ATHENS — Greece’s coast guard on Friday rescued dozens of migrants whose boat ran aground on a deserted islet off southwestern Greece, while another boat landed on the Aegean Sea resort island of Mykonos, well west of the normal migrant route.

The coast guard said the first vessel appeared to have been carrying migrants trying to clandestinely reach Italy from Greece. It hit rocks on Sapientza, off the southwestern tip of the Peloponnese, and took on water. All 67 people on board the nine-meter (27-foot) wooden craft were picked up safe.

Another 36 people, including seven children, landed Friday on a remote beach on Mykonos. The coast guard said all were in good health.

Separately, government figures showed 261 migrants or refugees arrived on eastern Greek islands in the 24 hours from Thursday morning to Friday morning — a jump compared to recent figures, which had ranged from a few dozen to about 150 per day.

Of those who arrived in the last 24 hours, 139 people reached Lesbos. The rest arrived on Chios, Samos, Leros and Karpathos.

The new arrivals push the number of migrants and refugees in Greece to more than 58,000. Many have officially applied for asylum.

Last year, Greece was the main point of entry into the EU for hundreds of thousands of people seeking better lives in northern and central European countries. A March deal between the EU and Turkey, combined with Balkan border closures to migrants, has led to a dramatic drop in new arrivals.

Those now arriving on Greek islands from Turkey face deportation back to Turkey unless they successfully apply for asylum in Greece.

While the deal has limited the flow, people still arrive and around 11,000 are stranded on a handful of eastern Aegean islands, most housed in overcrowded detention camps.

With the Balkan route closed, increasing numbers of migrants have turned to more dangerous routes. Hundreds have died making the perilous journey across the Mediterranean from the north African coast to Italy.

An aid group said Friday that five bodies had been recovered a day earlier off Libya after a small wooden boat capsized. The Migrant Offshore Aid Station, MOAS, said two Syrian girls, ages eight months and five years, were among the victims.

A Spanish aid group rescued at least 100 people from three separate boats in the area on Thursday.