Greece picks up 36 more migrants off Lesbos: report

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A lifebelt is seen on the beach of the port of Lesbos island on April 16, 2015. Since Greece bolstered controls along its land border with Turkey, along the Evros River, illegal immigrants have turned to the maritime route between Turkey and the Greek islands in the Aegean Sea, notably Lesbos, Samos, Kos and Chios. 2015 started with a major increase in the number of Aegean crossings: 10,445 against 2,863 in the same period of 2014, according to the Greek port police. AFP PHOTO / ANGELOS TZORTZINIS / AFP PHOTO / ANGELOS TZORTZINIS

Thirty-six migrants travelling from Turkey were spotted off Lesbos and transferred to a temporary settlement in the north of the island, Greece’s coastguard said Sunday, AFP reported.

Among the group “one person had to be hospitalized,” a coastguard press office official told AFP, without giving further details.

The rest of the group was safely transferred to a migrant facility on Lesbos and quarantined for seven days under measures to combat the coronavirus, the source said.

According to Greek state news agency ANA, the group comprises 10 women, 10 children and 16 men, all from Iran and Afghanistan.

Their boat was spotted on Saturday morning, but the rescue and transfer operation did not take place until midnight, according to the coastguard.

Migrant advocacy NGOs the Aegean Boat Report and Watch the Med denounced on social media the Greek and Turkish coastguards for leaving the boat in distress offshore “for 14 hours” while they both attempted to palm off responsibility.

With the boat in their waters on Saturday evening, the Greek coastguard finally rescued the migrants.

Migrants trying to reach Europe to flee war and poverty frequently use this narrow area between Greece and Turkey in the Aegean Sea.

There have been numerous reports from NGOs and the media published in recent months accusing Greece of driving migrants backs towards Turkey.

On Friday the UN’s refugee agency, the International Organization for Migration, and the EU called on Athens to “urgently open an investigation” into the matter and “take the necessary measures.”

It is the third boat to arrive on Lesbos since the beginning of June.

A total of 108 migrants have been rescued off the island in the last two weeks, according to ANA, an increase in numbers after a significant drop in previous months due to restrictions caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

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