Greece stops 5 boats from Turkey carrying over 120 migrants: report

(Photo by ARIS MESSINIS / AFP)

Greece has stopped five boats carrying more than 120 people from illegally entering its waters in the eastern Aegean from Turkey, the Associated Press reported, citing a statement from the Greek coast guard.

Patrol boats from the European Union’s Frontex border agency assisted in the operation, and Turkish Coast Guard boats eventually arrived at the scene off the island of Kos and picked up the migrants, AP said.

Greece is a major entry point into the EU for Asians and Africans fleeing conflict or poverty, most of whom leave Turkey in dilapidated boats. Reinforced patrols by Greek authorities, assisted by the European border agency, have restricted flows in recent years after nearly a million people made the journey in 2015.

However, Turkish officials and human rights groups have accused Greece of engaging in illegal returns of people who managed to enter its waters or territory. Athens denies the charges.

Greece and Turkey have large refugee and migrant populations.

On March 18, 2016, the European Council and Turkey reached an agreement aimed at stopping the flow of irregular migration via Turkey to Europe. According to the EU-Turkey agreement, all new irregular migrants and asylum seekers arriving from Turkey to the Greek islands and whose asylum applications had been declared inadmissible are returned to Turkey. The EU pledged €3 billion for 2016-17 and an additional €3 billion for 2018-19 to Turkey as part of the deal.

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Sharon P. Juarez