Greek coast guards rescued 104 refugees and migrants in three separate operations in the eastern and southeastern Aegean in the early hours of Sunday, just as authorities are planning to transfer 570 asylum seekers from the island of Lesvos to the mainland.
The first rescue concerned an inflatable boat carrying 40 migrants from Turkey that was spotted off the coast of Farmakonisi. Another 45 people were rescued east of the same island a few hours later, while and additional 19 were brought safely to land after being seen sailing north of Samos.
On the island of Lesvos, in the meantime, 570 asylum seekers from Moria were getting ready to board a ferry on Sunday afternoon so they can be transferred to a facility in Vagiochori in central Macedonia as part of an ongoing effort to ease pressure on the overcrowded island camp.
Official figures showed that there were around 13,300 people registered at the Moria camp on Sunday, among which some 1,000 are minors without a parent or chaperone.
Speaking to the state-run Athens Macedonian News Agency, meanwhile, Deputy Migration Minister Giorgos Koumoutsakos said that during his visit to Ankara last week he “stressed the importance of effective implementation of the EU-Turkey deal” for stemming migration to the European Union.
His meetings with Turkish officials, Koumoutsakos said, “were sincere and touched upon all facets of the issue.”
Responding to concerns regarding delays in asylum procedures that have resulted in a huge backlog and overcrowding at official reception facilities, Koumoutsakos said the government is working on new legislation that will speed up procedures and introduce an “evaluation process that will accelerate the return of those not entitled to protection.”