Greece’s coast guard released a statement, stating it has rescued hundreds of refugees in numerous operations off the coasts of eastern Aegean islands, as a wave of people fleeing conflict and poverty in the Middle East, Asia and Africa toward Europe continues unabated.
The Hellenic Coast Guard said Wednesday it had rescued 578 people in 15 incidents at sea near the islands of Lesvos, Chios, Samos and Kos from Tuesday morning to Wednesday morning. The figure doesn’t include those who arrive at the islands themselves from the nearby Turkish coast, usually in inflatable dinghies.
Greece has borne the brunt of a record number of refugees and migrants heading to Europe, with more than 160,000 entering the country so far this year. The vast majority are Syrians and Afghans, fleeing Islamist extremists. The government has been criticized for not having a unified plan to handle the influx of refugees and throughout Greece, private citizens and church-sponsored groups have picked up the burden of helping refugees as they pass through Greece.
Meanwhile, as the thousands of refugees pass through Greece en route to other destinations in Europe, they are being met with violence and firepower on Greece’s northern border with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, where police forces have set up roadblocks and checkpoints and are attacking fleeing refugees trying to cross the border.
Greek daily newspaper Kathimerini also reported that Greece has been left out of an unfolding campaign by Balkan countries to forge a coordinated response to a torrent of migrants and asylum seekers.
Speaking from Skopje, Bulgarian Foreign Minister Daniel Mitov pledged his country’s support for FYROM in dealing with mounting pressure while calling for cooperation between the states of the region – but he did not name Greece.
Foreign Minister Mitko Cavkov said that interior ministers from FYROM, Austria, Hungary and Serbia will soon meet in Skopje to decide further action.