Greek coast guard rescues 368 migrants off Lesbos Island
The Greek coast guard rescued hundreds of migrants from overcrowded dinghy boats that left Turkey’s shores on Sunday (Match 6), ahead of an emergency EU-Turkey summit aimed at strengthening cooperation to stem the flow of migrants to Europe.
The coast guard vessel, patrolling off Lesbos island, picked from the sea 368 men, women and children and brought them to the port of Mytilene where aid agency workers helped the migrants disembark and board buses that will take them to the island’s ‘hotspot’ registration centre.
Local volunteers along with the aid agency workers helped the migrant children take their life jackets off and soon a pile of life jackets formed on the port’s quayside.
More than a million people reached Europe last year and some 133,000 arrived on the continent so far in 2016, and Greece has borne the brunt of migrant arrivals.
Athens, overwhelmed with the number of arrivals and amidst a searing economic crisis, has asked for emergency funding, technical assistance and supplies from the European Union to tackle the unprecedented crisis. .
On Sunday, Greece’s Alternate Defence Minister Dimitris Vitsas visited Piraeus port, where some 3,000 migrants are temporarily sheltered at the passenger terminals.
“We are doing our humanitarian duty but also our duty to the country and to Europe. There are difficulties, and this week will be a difficult one, but I think that towards the end of the week the situation will get much better,” the minister told journalists after inspecting the site.
The European Union, faced with a growing refugee crisis in Greece, launched a new aid programme on Wednesday (March 3) worth an initial 700 million euros that mirrors the kind of disaster relief it offers developing nations.
The new EU money, to be spent in conjunction with the United Nations and charities working in Greece and other EU states, will help to fund shelter, medical aid and other basic services.
More than 30,000 migrants have been stranded on Greece’s islands and mainland after Austria and other western Balkan states effectively closed their borders last week.
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