Greek coast guard rescues dozens of migrants stuck on deserted islet

Greece's coast guard rescued dozens of migrants Friday whose boat ran aground on a deserted islet off the coast of southwestern Greece, hundreds of miles from the usual entry point of migrants into the European Union nation.

The boat carrying about 70 people ran aground overnight on the tiny islet of Sapientza, off the southwestern tip of the Peloponnese, the coast guard said. The vast majority of migrants reach Greece's eastern Aegean islands a few miles from the Turkish coast.

Coast guard vessels picked up the migrants Friday morning, ferrying them to the mainland where they were to be registered. It was not immediately clear what type of boat it was, from where they had set sail where they were headed.

Separately, government figures showed 261 migrants or refugees arrived on Greek islands in the 24 hours from Thursday morning to Friday morning — a jump compared to recent figures, which had ranged from a few dozen to about 150 per day.

Of those who arrived in the last 24 hours, the vast majority — 139 people — reached the eastern Aegean island of Lesbos. The rest arrived on Chios, Samos, Leros and Karpathos.

The new arrivals brought the official count of refugees and migrants stranded in Greece to just over 58,000. Many of them have officially applied for asylum.

Last year, Greece was the main point of entry into the EU for hundreds of thousands of people seeking better lives in northern and central European countries. A March deal between the EU and Turkey, combined with Balkan border closures to migrants, has led to a dramatic drop in the number of new arrivals.

Those now arriving on Greek islands from Turkey face deportation back to Turkey unless they successfully apply for asylum in Greece.

While the deal has limited the flow, people still arrive and around 11,000 are stranded on a handful of eastern Aegean islands, most housed in overcrowded detention camps.

With the Balkan route now unavailable, increasing numbers of migrants have turned to alternate, more dangerous routes.

Hundreds have died making the perilous journey across the Mediterranean from the north African coast to Italy.

An aid group said Friday that five bodies had been recovered Thursday off the coast of Libya after a small wooden boat capsized about 22 nautical miles north.

The Migrant Offshore Aid Station, MOAS, said two Syrian girls, ages 8 months and 5 years, were among the victims.

A Spanish aid group rescued at least 100 people from three separate boats in the area on Thursday.