Migrants rescued as boat runs aground near Greek island


ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece’s coast guard rescued 57 migrants or refugees from a sailboat which ran aground off the coast of the eastern Aegean island of Lesbos Thursday, and arrested two suspected smugglers who had also been on board, authorities said.

The coast guard said the vessel ran aground south-southwest of Lesbos. Two fishing boats in the area assisted two coast guard patrol boats.

The number of migrants and refugees reaching Greek islands from the nearby Turkish coast has fallen dramatically in recent months, from hundreds or even thousands daily to none or a few dozen, following a European Union-Turkey deal under which those arriving on or after March 20 face being returned to Turkey unless they successfully apply for asylum in Greece.

On Thursday, Greece returned six Algerian men from Lesbos to Turkey, the country’s civil protection ministry said. The six were returned on board a vessel chartered by the European border protection agency Frontex to the nearby Turkish port of Dikili.

Since the EU-Turkey agreement went into effect, 468 people of varying nationalities have been returned to Turkey, the ministry said. Another 1,053 people have been sent back to Turkey under a bilateral 2001 Greek-Turkish agreement, while 36 Turkish nationals have been sent back based on a separate EU-Turkey deal regarding Turkish citizens.