According to the Greek coast guard, its own patrol boats and EU border agency Frontex on Wednesday spotted nearly 120 people trying to reach Greece from Turkey on motorized rubber dinghies and wooden boats. Close to 20,000 migrants are currently staying in overcrowded camps on Greek islands in the eastern Aegean Sea.
The influx of refugees from Turkey to Greece continues. On Wednesday morning alone, patrol boats of the Greek coast guard and Frontex, the European Union’s border and coast guard agency, discovered 118 people on motorized rubber dinghies and wooden boats. That's according to the Greek coast guard.
The refugees who attempted the irregular crossing from non-EU country Turkey to EU member state Greece were picked up off the islands of Lesbos, Samos and Kos.
On the islands of Lesbos, Chios, Samos and Leros, the state-run registration camps are overcrowded. Currently, close to 20,000 refugees and migrants live in the camps and accommodation facilities run by aid organizations there.
Especially the reception camps on Samos and Lesbos are bursting at the seams. In the Samos camps, more than 3,500 people were waiting although the capacity is only 650 people. Time and again, refugee aid organizations criticize the conditions as inhumane.
This week's interception of migrant boats is the latest in a string of similar incidents. The last major one happened in early June, when the Greek coast guard and Frontex intercepted boats with 234 migrants. Less than two weeks later, a boat carrying dozens of migrants sank just a few kilometers from the coast of Kos, leaving eight dead and one unaccounted for.
In late March, the Greek coast guard saved 36 survivors of a migrant boat that capsized in the Eastern Aegean.
Earlier this week, the Greek coast guard and Frontex announced they will deploy a crewless airship to monitor the narrow strait that separates the Greek island of Samos and the Turkish coast starting this Tuesday.
The blimp is to combat the illegal activity of human smugglers who every day transport dozens of migrants from Turkey to EU member state Greece.
Major points of arrival
In 2015, tens of thousands of migrants crossed the Aegean Sea and arrived on the Greek islands - or drowned in the attempt. On some days, some 7,000 migrants reached Greek islands via Turkey.
As a response, the EU struck a deal with Turkey (‘EU-Turkey deal’) in 2016: In exchange for financial aid for refugees in Turkey, Ankara agreed to prevent migrants passing through its territory to Europe.
But critics say the deal EU-Turkey deal has failed and caused Syrian asylum seekers to have been stuck in limbo in Greece.
Although numbers have dropped significantly since the height of the so-called refugee crisis in 2015, the Greek islands Samos, Lesbos, Chios, Leros and Kos in the Aegean - located just a few kilometers off the Turkish coast - continue to be major points of arrival for migrants making the risky sea journey from Turkey to Greece.
According to the International Organization for Migration, Greece became the EU country with the largest number of migrant arrivals this year with more than 22,000 through July 23. Last year, Spain was number one with over 65,000 arrivals.
Turkey has officially taken in over 3.5 million refugees from Syria.
With material from dpa