ATHENS, Greece (AP) — More than 450 migrants reached Greece's Aegean Sea islands in boats from Turkey in less than two days, Greek authorities said Thursday, including 51 people who made landfall on the high-end resort of Mykonos.
The new arrivals come amid a steady rise in migration to the European Union country, which officials mostly attribute to better summer sailing conditions.
While Greece was once the main entry point to the EU for people seeking a better life in the wealthy bloc, its Mediterranean neighbor Italy now has nearly seven times more arrivals.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni discussed immigration during a working dinner in Athens late Thursday, Mitsotakis' office said. It added both leaders agreed on the need to police Europe's borders and crack down on migrant smuggling networks.
In the Mykonos incident, a Greek coast guard statement said a motor yacht that had landed 42 men, eight women and a child on the island Wednesday was stopped hours later off the eastern Aegean island of Patmos. Three men on it were arrested on suspicion of belonging to a migrant smuggling group based in neighboring Turkey.
The coast guard also said 30 migrants, including 6 children, were found Wednesday on the coast of Evia — an island near the Greek mainland that has seen a recent increase in migrant arrivals despite being relatively far from Turkey. A coast guard statement Thursday quoted the migrants as saying they had been brought by a speedboat that headed back to Turkey.
Overall, between Wednesday morning and Thursday evening, a total of 463 people were picked up. These included 185 migrants the coast guard said Wednesday it had rescued elsewhere in Greek waters.
For years, smuggling gangs avoided the short crossing from Turkey to eastern Aegean islands such as Lesbos and Samos due to stronger Greek marine patrols, preferring the longer route round southern Greece to Italy. Human rights groups have repeatedly charged that Greek authorities also secretly deported migrants back to Turkey — a claim Athens strongly denies.
Greece was also broadly condemned for failing to prevent a migrant shipwreck believed to have cost hundreds of lives in June.
Now, dozens of migrants reach, or are rescued off, the eastern Greek islands nearly daily. The coast guard said 76 people were taken off crippled boats in three separate cases off Samos Thursday.
Another 50, including 10 children, were rescued later from an inflatable boat near the eastern island of Symi, 47 people were evacuated from two boats off Lesbos, and 24 were found on a rocky coast on the islet of Oinousses, according to the coast guard.
More than 17,300 people have reached Greece, mostly by sea, so far this year, according to United Nations figures, compared to 19,000 for the whole of 2022.
Since January, nearly 113,000 migrants have reached Italy, and almost 20,000 have arrived in Spain.
Follow AP’s global migration coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/migration