100 migrants rescued after being stranded off Greece

By AFP   August 19, 2016 | 05:48 pm PT
The boats ran aground, 100 were rescued; two Syrian girls, one of them a baby, drowned off the coast.

One group of 67 migrants, including 13 children, was found stranded in their wooden boat off the western Greek port of Methoni on the Peloponnese peninsula, facing southern Italy.

The migrants, whose nationalities have not been revealed, appear to have been trying to leave Greece for Italy, according to initial reports.

They were taken to Methoni to be processed and identified, according to harbor police, who revised their earlier figure of around 50 migrants rescued.

In another incident, a sailboat was stranded off the Aegean island of Mykonos, which is popular with tourists and is near Turkey.

All 36 migrants on board, including seven children, were rescued by the local authorities.

After a major lull since the European Union (EU) signed a controversial deal with Turkey to stem the migrant influx in March, there has been a slight uptick in arrivals in Greece in recent days.

Between Thursday and Friday morning, 261 new arrivals were registered on the Aegean islands, mainly Lesbos, an increase on recent days, according to the SOMP agency which is coordinating Greece's response to the migrant crisis.

The number of new arrivals, at an average of 100 a day, is however considerably lower than the peak of several thousand daily last summer.

Under the deal, Turkey agreed to take back Syrians who make it to Greece, in return for being allowed to send one from its massive refugee camps to the EU in a more orderly redistribution program.

Lat week there were between 13 and 147 new arrivals every day.

Both Greece and the EU fear that the migrant floodgates could re-open as Turkey focuses on a purge of officials following the failed coup of July 15 which has led to a souring of relations between Ankara and Brussels.

Some 10,000 migrants remain encamped on the Aegean islands, which have a capacity to host just 7,450 migrants with most claiming asylum to either avoid or postpone their forcible return to Turkey under the deal.

Two girls drowned

Despite the extreme danger involved, some migrants are still turning to the longer, considerably more perilous route from Libya to Italy.

On Thursday, two Syrian girls, one of them an eight-month-old baby, were among six people who died when a boat carrying would-be migrants to Europe capsized off Libya, Italian rescuers said.

Five bodies were recovered and one passenger was missing, presumed drowned, following the capsize on Thursday. Some of the 21 survivors told aid workers there had been 27 people from eight Syrian families on the boat.

The Phoenix, a rescue boat run by the Malta-based NGO Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) and the Italian Red Cross (CRI), recovered the corpses of two women, one man and the baby while the five-year-old's body was picked up by a fishing boat, the organizations said.

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