Greece’s coast guard rescued more than 1,400 migrants in nearly 60 search and rescue operations near several Greek islands in the eastern Aegean Sea over the past three days as the pace of new arrivals increase, authorities said Monday.
Tens of thousands of people, many of them fleeing war and conflict in Syria and Afghanistan, have been making their way from the Turkish coast to nearby Greek islands in inflatable dinghies, overwhelming cash-strapped and understaffed authorities on the islands. The vast majority then head to mainland Greece and from there, try to access more prosperous European Union countries by either walking across the Balkans from northern Greece, or sneaking onto Italy-bound ferries from the west.
The 1,417 migrants rescued between Friday morning and Monday morning were picked up at sea in 59 separate incidents off the coasts of the islands of Lesbos, Chios, Samos, Agathonisi and Kos, the coast guard said.
Those figures do not include the hundreds of others who manage to reach the islands’ coasts themselves, walking to the main towns to turn themselves in to local authorities and receive registration papers.
On the island of Kos alone, more than 150 migrants in at least six boats landed on the shore in the early hours of Monday morning.
Some 40 Syrians waved and cheered as their boat arrived at the popular tourist destination. Men jumped into the water to help women and children off the dinghy, with one man so overcome with emotion that he began to sob.
Mukhtar, a Somali migrant who arrived further north, on the island of Lesbos, said he had made his way to Greece in an effort to get to Norway where his family lives.
“I haven’t seen my family for 20 years,” said Mukhtar, who would only give his first name, in Mytilene, the island’s capital. “I want to see my family.”
Source: ABC News