ATHENS: A Greek passenger ferry today sent its lifeboats to rescue 61 migrants whose boat was at risk of sinking off the island of Lesbos, port police said.
The Blue Star 1 took 35 of the survivors aboard and carried them to safety on Lesbos, where they joined the rest of the group, who were picked up by the port police on speedboats.
Passengers on the Blue Star 1 raised the alarm after seeing the migrants’ overloaded boat was on the verge of sinking.
Lesbos is one of several Greek islands struggling to cope with an influx of thousands of migrants, many of them Syrian refugees, setting sail from the nearby Turkish coast.
Some 2,500 migrants were transported from Lesbos to Athens’ Piraeus port today by the Eleftherios Venezelos, one of two government-chartered ships making regular trips to the mainland in a bid to relieve pressure on the islands, whose infrastructure is under severe strain.
Most of those onboard the ferry today were Afghans, an AFP journalist said, in contrast to previous crossings which have mostly transported Syrians.
There have been clashes on Lesbos in recent days between police and migrants, and between migrants of different nationalities, over delays in the registration process that have held up their journeys on to other countries in Europe.
Syrians have been granted priority in the registration process, sparking tensions with other migrants forced into long waits on the island.
More than 230,000 people have landed on Greek shores this year, with the numbers soaring in recent weeks as people seek to take advantage of the calm summer weather.
Port police said the Greek coastguard had rescued a total of 2,600 refugees and migrants between Friday and morning, a count that does not include those who managed to make it to the islands on their own.