Greece says it has prevented hundreds of migrants from entering waters

Greece says it has prevented hundreds of migrants from entering waters

In the largest attempt to enter Greece this year, Greece said on Monday that it had prevented around 600 migrants from crossing the Aegean Sea into its territorial waters from neighbouring Turkey.

A spokesman for the Greek coastguard said five sailboats and four dinghies had set off early in the morning from the Turkish coast.

The Greek patrol vessels were able to locate the vessels and inform the Turkish coastguard, a spokesman told AFP.

A coastguard statement said that its boats had used visual and sound signals to keep the asylum seekers out of Greek territorial waters.

He added that all the vessels were either headed back or intercepted by the Turkish coastguard.

He said all the incidents occurred inside Turkish territorial waters near the Greek islands of Samos and Chios.

Migration flows to the Greek islands were nearly 30 percent higher in the first four months of 2022, according to a migration ministry source.

More than 3,000 asylum seekers have arrived in Greece this year, including over 1,100 last month, according to data from the migration ministry.

There is a heightened migrant activity on Greece's land border with Turkey because of the low water levels on the Evros River that divides the two countries, a border official said on Monday.

There are more than 2,300 asylum seekers in camps in the Greek islands of Lesbos, Samos, Chios, Kos and Leros, all near Turkey, according to the latest ministry statistics.

In Samos, Leros and Kos, new camps were recently funded by the European Union. There are others on Lesbos and Chios to follow.

Greece blames Turkey for not taking adequate action to curb people smugglers who send migrants in unsafe boats and dinghies from its shores, in violation of a 2016 accord with the EU.

Greece is a member of the 27 nation bloc, but Turkey is not.

Greece's tough border controls have been plagued by accusations from rights groups that the Greek coastguard has been engaging in illegally forcing migrants to return to Turkey.

Athens has never denied that its security forces are engaged in illegal pushbacks.

In March, Greece's national transparency authority said no evidence was found of such practices in a four-month investigation.

EU border agency Frontex has been accused of being accused of illegally returning migrants across EU borders.

Frontex boss Fabrice Leggeri resigned last month amid an investigation by the European Anti-fraud Office OLAF, which was reportedly into alleged mismanagement.