NEWS

Migrant influx taxes coast guard, island authorities

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As Greek coast guard officials indicated on Wednesday that nearly 3,000 undocumented migrants were intercepted in the eastern Aegean within five days, the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) has warned of an “unprecedented” crisis.

A total of 1,349 would-be migrants were stopped as they attempted to reach Greece from neighboring Turkey between last Friday through Sunday, according to officials who said that number had risen to 2,995 on Wednesday. Coast guard officials intercepted 509 undocumented immigrants on Wednesday, including three suspected smugglers off the islands of Lesvos, Chios and Rhodes.

Search-and-rescue operations in the Aegean have led to an average of 500 migrants being detained every day.

Meanwhile, local authorities on the islands are struggling to accommodate the migrants and provide the medical care they need.

The influx has increased dramatically, about fivefold compared to last year, with 31,318 would-be migrants detained in the month of June alone, according to coast guard figures.

The situation has prompted the UNHCR to urge the European Union to provide more support, noting that the economic crisis in Greece combined with the increasing influx of immigrants is putting huge pressure on small island communities which do not have the means to deal with the situation.