Migrant arrivals to Greek islands jump to highest in weeks

More than 460 migrants and refugees arrived on Greek islands from Turkey on Tuesday, the highest in several weeks, despite a European Union deal with Ankara agreed in March to close off that route.

Greek authorities recorded 462 new arrivals between Monday and Tuesday morning, up from 129 the previous day. Most entered through the Aegean islands of Lesvos and Kos.

The numbers are small compared to those trying to reach Italy from Africa – some 6,500 migrants were saved off the Libyan coast on Monday, the Italian coast guard said – and far fewer than the thousands a day arriving in Greece last summer.

But they indicate a steady inflow of people, five months after the deal was agreed. Under the accord, those who cross to Greece without documents from March 20 will be sent back to Turkey unless they apply for asylum and their claim is accepted.

So far under the deal, just 482 people have been deported to Turkey but none had applied for asylum, Greece says. No rejected asylum seekers have been sent back.

That has pushed the number of migrants and refugees currently on Greece’s islands to 12,120 from 5,538 in March. Most are Syrians, Afghans and Iraqis, and they live in overcrowded camps.

According to the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR, 100 people arrived on Greek islands from Turkey a day in August, up from 60 in July. It said 2,307 people arrived through August 23, compared to 1,920 for the entire month of July.

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