Authorities rescue nearly 60 migrants on small boats in Aegean Sea

Authorities rescue nearly 60 migrants on small boats in Aegean Sea

Greek authorities on Saturday rescued nearly 60 migrants in inflatable dinghies trying to cross from Turkey to the nearby eastern Aegean Sea islands in two separate incidents, the coast guard said.

In recent weeks Greece has seen a rise in such arrivals, mostly in small unseaworthy boats provided by smugglers.

A coast guard statement said a patrol boat located 41 people early Saturday on a drifting inflatable dinghy off the island of Lesbos. All were safely evacuated and taken to a reception center on the island.

Following a chase earlier Saturday, a coast guard patrol boat stopped another dinghy carrying 17 people near the eastern Aegean islets of Arkii. The migrants were taken to the island of Patmos, while one of them was arrested on suspicion of belonging to a smuggling ring.

Greek officials have blamed the increase in arrivals largely on conflicts in Africa that are adding pressure on the main smuggling routes to Europe, and also on a burgeoning black market industry in Turkey that produces low-quality inflatable boats. Better summer sailing conditions have also contributed to the hike in numbers.

The Greek government says it has not changed its policy of intercepting boats at sea which had significantly reduced arrivals of migrants in recent years.

Human rights groups have accused Greece of carrying out illegal summary deportations to Turkey of people who managed to reach Greek shores. Athens strongly denies that.



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