ATHENS, Greece (AP) — More than 300 migrants have arrived on Greek islands, most near the Turkish coast, over the past three days in separate incidents reported by the coast guard.
On Thursday, the coast guard said authorities had found 107 people the previous day on the islands of Samos, Mykonos and the tiny island of Ro, which lies in the Mediterranean off the southern coast of Turkey.
Those were in addition to another 109 people whose arrival Wednesday the coast guard announced the same day on the islands of Lesbos, Rhodes, Samos and Santorini, while a further 118 arrived Tuesday on the islands of Ro, Rhodes and Lesbos.
Most were picked up near the coastline by coast guard patrol boats from dinghies or other vessels provided by smugglers. All were taken to migrant reception centers.
For decades Greece has been one of the preferred entry points into the European Union for people fleeing conflict or poverty in the Middle East, Africa and Asia and hoping for a better life in Europe.
More than 14,000 people have reached Greece by land and sea so far this year, according to United Nations figures. That’s about a tenth of the total successful Mediterranean crossings, most of which — about 104,000 — were to Italy. Arrivals in Greece for the whole of 2022 totaled 19,000.
In June, a battered fishing trawler heading from Libya to Italy with an estimated 500-750 people on board sank in international waters off southwestern Greece. Only 104 survivors were found, and Greek authorities were heavily criticized for failing to evacuate the vessel in time.
The government has attributed the rise in migrant crossings over the past two months to better summer weather and smugglers taking advantage of an increase in Aegean small boat traffic during the tourist season.
After nearly a million people entered Greece at the height of Europe’s 2015 migration crisis, the vast majority hoping to move north to wealthier European countries, Greece increased patrols along the sea and land border with Turkey to halt arrivals.
Human rights groups and migrants have denounced the government for carrying out illegal summary deportations of people arriving in the country without allowing them to apply for asylum, an accusation the government strongly denies.