The Greek coast guard rescued 665 migrants and refugees in the 24-hour period from Thursday morning to Friday morning, the Associated Press reported. Migrants and refugees, often fleeing violence and genocide in their home countries -- including Syria and Iraq -- have been arriving by the thousands since January. This latest rescue mission continued to shed light on the sheer numbers of people risking their lives to reach the European Union.
The Greek coast guard completed 20 search and rescue operations throughout the night and into the morning off the eastern Greek islands of Lesbos, Chios, Samos, Agathonissi, Kos and Megisti. Most of the people crossing into Greece come from Turkey, which is only 6 kilometers away, and they make the journey in small rubber dinghies that are typically overcrowded. Migrants often travel at night in these boats, which are operated by smugglers who charge as much as 2,000 euros ($2,240) per person for the two-hour ride.
— PBS NewsHour (@NewsHour) August 23, 2015
The Aegean Sea crossing into Greece is one of the easiest points of entry into the EU because of its proximity to Turkey and the fact that many refugees fleeing civil war in Syria cross first into neighboring Turkey.
More than 200,000 people have entered Greece since January, say figures released Friday by the U.N. High Commissioner For Refugees. For most of them, Greece is only a pit stop on the way to a better life in northern European countries such as Germany or Britain, which have stronger economies and more job opportunities. All people entering the EU must be documented, photographed and fingerprinted before they can continue to their final destination.
Local authorities and nongovernmental aid organizations alike have called for a long-term solution to the crisis. Most leaders have said that the solution would need to include all EU member states sharing the burden of caring for newly arrived refugees.