NEWS

Dozens of migrants intercepted in three incidents as inflows continue unabated

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As Greece struggles to manage the biggest spike in migrant and refugee arrivals since the start of the crisis in 2015, the Hellenic Coast Guard intercepted 116 people sailing from Turkey in three separate incidents on Tuesday morning alone.

The first incident, according to the state-run Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA-MPA), involved 27 migrants on an inflatable dinghy, who were spotted southwest of the port of Alexandroupoli in northern Greece in the early hours of Tuesday.

A speedboat was then intercepted off Farmakonisi in the eastern Aegean, carrying 42 passengers who were then taken to the island to be processed, while the third incident involved 47 migrants and refugees sailing off the coast of Samos, also in the eastern Aegean.

According to official government figures released last week, arrivals from January 1 to September 15 came to 46,100, an increase of 24 percent from the same period in 2018. Of those, 12,000 took place in the month up to September 15, with the majority of the new arrivals identified as Afghan and Syrian nationals.

The UN Refugee Agency, meanwhile, reported that arrivals on the Greek islands in the week from September 14 to 20 came to 2,214 people.

The continued inflows come after government spokesman Stelios Petsas said on Sunday that the government is seeking ways to stem arrivals and increase the number of expulsions, after streamlining asylum laws so that applications can be processed faster.

In the meantime, priority has been given to transferring thousands of asylum seekers from overcrowded camps on the Aegean islands to facilities and hotels on the mainland.

The government hopes to create 10,000 spots on the mainland by the end of the year, with an additional 10,000 to be created later.