Greece receives biggest influx of migrants since 2016

Screen Shot 2019 09 02 at 1.14.05 am

Screen Shot 2019 09 02 at 1.14.05 am

Hundreds of people in more than a dozen migrant boats landed on Lesvos island, the largest mass arrival from Turkey in three years.

Thirteen boats carrying 546 people reached Lesvos during Thursday afternoon and 32 people from another boat were rescued at sea and brought to the island.

A further 65 people were saved in two more incidents off the island of Kos and the northern town of Alexandroupolis, the coast guard said.

The migrant boats landed on Lesvos island within minutes of each other on Thursday in the first such mass arrival from Turkey in three years, officials said, prompting Greece to summon Turkey’s ambassador.

Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias summoned the Turkish ambassador on Friday to “express Greece’s deep discontent” with the rise in flows from Turkey, diplomatic sources said. The ambassador said Turkey was “committed” to the EU-Turkey deal and that its policy had not changed, the sources said.

UNHCR spokesman Boris Cheshirkov said the numbers were alarming.

"We haven't seen this type of simultaneous arrivals in this number since 2016. It's a cause for concern," said Cheshirkov.

Most of the recent will reportedly be taken to Moria, Europe's largest migrant reception centre.

Greece's Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has vowed to speed up the processing of asylum claims, as the number of monthly arrivals to Greece jumped to around 7,000 in August, the highest in three years.