Approximately 500 people have illegally reached the shores of Greek islands in the North Aegean in inflatable dinghies since dawn on Sunday, with six boatloads containing 300 people arriving in Lesvos alone. Another 120 reached the island of Chios in four boats and roughly 80 came to Samos in two boats. All the new arrivals were taken to the Reception and Identification Centres on the islands to be counted and identified.
The vast majority reaching Lesvos seem entirely impoverished, often barefoot, with nothing but the clothes they have on. The majority are from African countries and report that they paid traffickers between 1,500-2,000 US dollars for their passage, or the equivalent in valuable goods. They said that they had been living in areas of Istanbul for several months and three days ago were told by traffickers to prepare for their departure to Europe. They were then taken in buses or cars to forested regions near the coast where they waited for the weather - which was very bad in recent days - to improve.
They were then taken to the coast where boats were waiting for them to board and cast off. Many reported that people in uniform, many of them armed, were present at their departure.
The Greek coast guard was on standby from the first moment, with its patrol boats near the sea border. Coast guard officers, in accordance with the EU-Turkey Statement, contacted their Turkish counterparts to pick up the passengers in the dinghies while these were still in Turkish territorial waters. As eye-witnesses on the Greek side reported, however, Turkish patrol boats that did appear on the scene did nothing and their occupants addressed the Greek coast guard officers with sarcasm, shouting out "good luck".
The arriving migrants and refugees are being transported by buses supplied by the coast guard while, applying the protocol for protection from coronvirus, they are being issued with disposable masks and required to put them on.