Greece says stops over 1,000 migrants from Turkey

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Refugees and migrants aboard an inflatable boat arrive in the Greek island of Lesbos on March 2, 2020. - Around 500 migrants landed on Sunday morning in around 10 vessels, according to an AFP tally, their crossing made easier by the good weather conditions. Another four vessels carrying 120 people landed on the neighbouring island of Chios, and two vessels carrying 80 migrants landed on Samos, further to the south, ANA reported. According to the Greek coastguard, around 180 migrants arrived Saturday on Lesbos and Samos, making the crossing from Turkey despite strong winds. (Photo by ARIS MESSINIS / AFP)

Athens on Monday accused smugglers from Turkey of trying to send more than a thousand migrants to Greek islands before the boats were detected in the Aegean and turned back, Agence France-Presse reported.

Greek Merchant Navy Minister Yannis Plakiotakis said Turkish smugglers had “tried to disembark” about 1,130 refugees on Greek islands in the last three days.

Greek authorities have “turned back the smuggling boats in 24 separate incidents,” the minister told private radio station Real in an interview.

The boats had tried to reach the islands of Chios, Kos, Lesbos, Rhodes and Samos, Plakiotakis’ ministry said in a statement.

Greek coastguards said none of the boats entered Greek waters and that “all foreigners were rescued by Turkish marine authorities”.

The Greek coastguard respected international law while taking “all appropriate measures for the effective protection of the maritime borders of Greece and the European Union,” it added.

Aid groups and media frequently accuse Athens of organizing “illegal pushbacks” of migrants, allegations that Greece denies.

In May, Greece said it prevented around 600 migrants from crossing into its waters from Turkey.

A Greek migration ministry source said nearly 30 percent more asylum seekers had tried to come to Greece in the first four months of 2022 than in the same period last year.

“Turkey continues to behave like a pirate state violating international law and endangering the lives of unfortunate people,” Plakiotakis said, accusing Ankara of turning a blind eye to smuggling networks.

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