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Greek Coast Guard Finds Migrant Boat in Distress Off Crete

May 8, 2018

Greece’s Coast Guard said it located a wooden fishing boat with dozens of migrants on board who  sent out a distress call while sailing south of the island of Crete in hopes of reaching the European Union, as an influx of refugees and migrants has stepped up.

Three Coast Guard vessels and an aircraft from the European border patrol agency Frontex were sent to search for the 20-meter (66-foot) boat, carrying about 45 people, which was spotted by passing ships 16 miles (25 kilometers) south of Crete.

The Coast Guard said the boat did not appear to be in any danger and the weather was mild.

Thousands of migrants and refugees have continued to make their way to Greece, Italy and Spain in an effort to enter the EU, which has closed its borders to them, dumping the problem mostly on Greece as well Italy.

For Greece, most of the migrants come in small inflatable rafts from the Turkish coast to nearby Greek islands in the Aegean Sea or across a river that runs along the two nations’ border, the numbers increasing sharply with the warmer spring weather.

There are some 15,000 on Greek islands, where they were sent by human traffickers in Turkey, the country to which they went after fleeing war and strife in the Middle East, particularly Syria, as well as Iraq and Iran.

That has caused severe overcrowding in detention centers with the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA mostly refusing them from the islands to the mainland where another 50,000 are being held.

Some have waited up to two years and more for their asylum applications to be reviewed after other EU countries shut their doors and refused to honor pledges to take in thousands to help relieve Greece.

Late on May 7 and into May 8, six people were injured and four others were arrested during a fight in a refugee camp near the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki.

Police said the three-hour fight in the Lagadikia refugee camp involved about 250 people and apparently broke out after Syrians said Algerians had harassed Syrian women. The fight quickly spread, with those involved using knives and planks of wood.

Due to the increase in the number of people arriving across the Evros River on the Greek-Turkish border, Lagadikia now houses 250 people more than its 360-person capacity. The new arrivals are being housed in offices and other areas, and sleep on the floor.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras went to the eastern Aegean island of Lesbos near Turkey to attend a growth conference last week but had to guarded by 300 riot police he was met with hostility from islanders who said he’s not doing enough to help them deal with hosting some 7,000 refugees and migrants in a main detention center.

(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)

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