Greece said Tuesday it stopped 150 migrants from entering its waters from neighbouring Turkey, a day after holding back another 600 in the largest attempted entry this year.
“As part of our daily patrols, four separate operations took place early on Tuesday morning off the islands of Chios, Samos and Lesbos” in the north-eastern Aegean, a Greek coastguard official told AFP.
“Four inflatable dinghies were spotted with around 150 migrants aboard on the Greek maritime border and the patrol boats deterred them from entering by using sound and light signals and notifying the Turkish authorities” to retrieve them, the official said.
The Greek islands in the Aegean are very close to Turkey’s western coast, from where migrants fleeing war and poverty seek to enter the European Union.
Greece regularly blames Turkey for not taking enough action to curb people smugglers who send out migrants in unsafe boats and dinghies from its shores, in breach of a 2016 accord with the EU.
Greece is a member of the 27-nation bloc, but Turkey is not.
With the help of EU border agency Frontex, Greece’s conservative government has tightened border controls.
But it has also been dogged by accusations from rights groups, who say the Greek coastguard has been illegally forcing migrants to return to Turkey, which Athens denies.
The coastguard said on Monday it takes “all appropriate measures to protect Greece and the EU’s maritime borders, respecting international law and human life.”