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Greek Coast Guard Rescues 140 Refugees, Migrants

Αssociated Press

(AP Photo/Michael Svarnias, file)

With the new New Democracy government trying to devise ways to deal with a surge of migrants and refugees coming to Greek islands, the Coast Guard said it had saved 104 in three separate missions during patrols in the Aegean.

The operations came as the government said it would move another 570 out of the Moria camp on Lesbos that is holding more than 13,300 in a facility built for only 3000, leading to frequent

The first rescue saw the Greek crews pick up 40 people from an inflatable raft off the coast of Farmakonisi trying to make the perilous journey across the Aegean from Turkey, which lets human traffickers operate during an essentially-suspended swap deal with the European Union.

Turkey has been overwhelmed with millions of refugees and migrants who fled war and strife in their homelands, especially Syria and Afghanistan, who used the country as a jumping-off point to get to Greece to seek asylum after the EU closed its borders to them.

Another 45 people were rescued later in another pickup off the island of Farmakonisi and then 19 more were saved after being spotted sailing north of Samos, within sight of the Turkish coast, taking the chance they would eventually be granted asylum in Greece and risking their lives.

Speaking to the state-run Athens-Macedonian News Agency, 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 EU but there was no report whether he got an answer.

New Democracy said it would speed the pace of asylum applications as well as deportations to Turkey of those deemed ineligible as human rights groups have said the detention centers and camps holding nearly 30,000 on the island are unfit for people to live in.