Sixteen rubber dinghies loaded with approximately 650 migrants invaded the beaches of the Greek Aegean island Lesbos in just one day.
On Thursday during a timespan of just one hour, thirteen small boats with 547 migrants onboard offloaded their passengers on Greek shores. The last three boats came just a short period after.
The ships are believed to have come from Turkey loaded with illegal migrants mainly from Afghanistan and Syria.
According to the local Greek media outlet Keep Talking Greece, there were even NGO workers onshore assisting migrants to disembark.
“It surprised us. It’s highly unusual to have so many boats at the same time, it’s an anomaly,” Boris Cheshirkov, spokesman for the United Nations refugee agency in Greece told the Telegraph. “It’s the highest number in a single day for three years. We can’t say for certain what the reason is. It’s a cause for concern.”
“Hundreds have been arriving in Greece from Turkey each week, despite a deal struck between Turkey and the European Union which saw Ankara receives billions in funding from the bloc in return for stemming the flow,” the Telegraph reports.
Thursday’s mass arrival represents the largest of its kind since the height of the migrant crisis in 2016.
In the first two weeks of August alone, the Aegean island of Lesbos has already received nearly 2,000 migrants, representing a massive spike from 2018 where 479 migrants landed in the same period.
Figures from the UN show that of the 56,000 ‘asylum seekers’ and migrants who have arrived in Europe this year, close to half have been to a handful of Greek islands.
Greece’s foreign minister Nikos Dendias is reported to have summoned the Turkish ambassador to “express Greece’s deep discontent” at the spike in illegal migrants coming from Turkey
Earlier this month, Turky’s Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu threatened Europeans when he said, “We are facing the biggest wave of migration in history. If we open the floodgates, no European government will be able to survive for more than six months. We advise them not to try our patience.”
During the height of the migrant crisis in 2015, the number of illegal migrants who reached Greek soil numbered in the hundreds of thousands. Although these numbers did decrease for some time, it appears that they’re on the rise once more.
Is Turkey making good on its threats to ‘open the floodgates’?