Greek police rescue new group of migrants from border islet

From the Associated Press

THESSALONIKI, Greece (AP) — A group of 17 stranded migrants, including eight children, have been rescued from a tiny islet in the river that runs along Greece’s northeastern land border with Turkey, police said Wednesday.

A police statement said the migrants were left on the islet in the Evros River by a smuggler who had ferried them across from the Turkish side in a boat. All 17 were in good health, the statement said. They identified themselves as Syrians, police said.

Wednesday’s rescue came a week after a similar incident involving 39 migrants found stranded on an Evros islet. In both cases, police said the migrants phoned humanitarian groups for assistance, who in turn notified Greek authorities and members of the European Union’s Frontex border agency stationed in the area.

The Evros is a major crossing point for thousands of people from the Middle East, Asia and Africa seeking a better life in Europe, who mostly pay smugglers to ferry them to Greece. The Greek authorities are planning to extend a fence designed to stop illegal crossings that currently covers part of the Evros border.

Humanitarian groups have accused Greece of sending migrants caught crossing the Evros illegally back to Turkey without allowing them to claim asylum, in breach of international law. Greece denies that.