A group of 17 Syrian migrants, including eight children, have been rescued by police from a small island in the Evros River in north-eastern Greece. They were taken to a pre-removal detention center near the Turkish border.
The Evros River, known as Meriç in Turkish, runs along Greece's northeastern land border with Turkey. On Wednesday (May 10), Greek police issued a statement saying that they had rescued a group of migrants from an islet in the middle of the river, near Pythio Didymoteicho.
They said the migrants had been left on the islet by a smuggler, who had ferried them across from the Turkish side in a boat. A video that appears to show the rescue operation was published on the Greek police's YouTube channel.
The rescued people identified themselves as Syrians. They were taken to the pre-removal detention center in Orestiada, after receiving first aid and psychosocial support from members of the Greek Red Cross.
According to the police statement, all 17 people were in good health, however Alarm Phone, which passes on emergency calls received from migrants to rescue authorities, said on May 9 (Tuesday) that the group had reported sick children.
Wednesday's rescue came a week after a similar incident involving 39 migrants stranded on a river islet.
In both cases humanitarian groups, including Alarm Phone, notified Greek authorities and members of the European Union's Frontex border agency stationed in the area.
Hundreds of people have lost their lives while trying to cross the river. Last year, at least 60 migrants are known to have died.
Also read: At the Evros border, the bodies mount up
The Evros is a major crossing point for migrants from the Middle East, Asia and Africa, most of whom ask for asylum when they reach Greece. According to the United Nations Refugee Agency UNHCR, 4,726 migrants have arrived in Greece from Turkey since the beginning of the year.
In 2020, Greek authorities began constructing a 5-meter-high steel fence, which is now about 38 kilometers long, to try to prevent crossings. The government plans to extend the fence to cover most of the 192-kilometer land border with Turkey.
According to migrant testimonies, supported by human rights organizations, Greek officers have sent migrants caught crossing the Evros back to Turkey without allowing them to claim asylum, in breach of international law. Greece denies the claims.
With AP, AFP