ATHENS – Greek authorities on Friday increased the number of migrants aboard a sailing boat that had reached the southern island of Kythera a day earlier to 71, the third overcrowded vessel to do so in two days.
The boat, a sailing catamaran, was spotted off the west coast of Kythera in the early hours of Thursday. The Coast Guard said there were seven women and twelve minors among the 71 people on board. Nine came from Iran and the rest from Iraq. According to initial reports, the Coast Guard reported 67 people on board the boat on Thursday.
About 170 people, the vast majority from Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran, arrived in Kythera on two other sailing boats on Wednesday.
The Coast Guard said five people had been arrested on suspicion of migrant smuggling – three Turkish nationals who had been on board the first ship and two Russian nationals on the second.
Located at the southern tip of the Peloponnese, Kythera is not a destination for thousands of people fleeing conflict and poverty in the Middle East, Asia and Africa. Most trying to make it into the European Union come from the Turkish coast to the nearby Greek islands in the east of the Aegean.
But as Greek authorities step up patrols in the region and face persistent reports of push-backs — summary and illegal deportations of newcomers back to Turkey without allowing them to seek asylum — more people are attempting a much longer and more dangerous one Route direct to Italy.
Greek authorities deny conducting pushbacks.
On Friday, Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi said on Greek radio Skai that migration flows to Greece last year were at their lowest in a decade, with 8,500 people arriving in the country. Skai Radio quoted him as saying that 2022 is expected to have the second lowest number of arrivals in the last 10 years, with around 7,000 arrivals so far.
Greece has been widely criticized by aid agencies, asylum seekers and some European politicians for using heavy-handed tactics, particularly pushbacks, to keep arrivals down.
“Humanity is very important, but the people who want to come to the EU because of the inequalities in the world are in the hundreds of millions,” Skai quoted Mitarachi as saying. “We’re not talking about a closed Europe, but also not about a Europe where human traffickers decide who gets in.”
Mitarachi reiterated that a 38-kilometer fence along Greece’s northeastern land border with Turkey would be extended by a further 80 kilometers.
Greek authorities were scathingly criticized last week over a group of mostly Syrians who were trapped for days on an island in the Evros River, which runs along the Greek-Turkish border in northeastern Greece. Greek officials insist the island is on the Turkish side of the border.
Police said Monday they found 38 people on the Greek side of the border, away from the river. The group told authorities a 5-year-old girl died from a scorpion sting during the ordeal on the island. Mitarachi said earlier this week that Greece would work with the International Red Cross and Red Crescent to recover the child’s body.
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https://www.local10.com/news/world/2022/08/19/greece-71-migrants-aboard-boat-reaching-southern-island/ 71 migrants aboard a boat arrive in the South Island