Greek authorities said that four people died and 18 were rescued Monday after a boat carrying migrants apparently sank northeast of the Greek island of Lesbos, which lies near the Turkish coast.
The coast guard said one of its vessels collected the 18 survivors and four people found unconscious and transported them to the island’s main port of Mytilene.
Over the weekend, the coast guard has said it has picked up dozens of people from boats near eastern Aegean Sea islands, part of an increase in new arrivals over the past two months.
For decades Greece has been one of the preferred entry points into the European Union for people fleeing conflict or poverty in the Middle East, Africa and Asia and hoping for a better life in Europe.
More than 14,000 people have reached Greece by land and sea so far this year, according to United Nations figures. That’s about a tenth of the total successful Mediterranean crossings, most of which — about 104,000 — were to Italy. Arrivals in Greece for the whole of 2022 totaled 19,000.
In June, a battered fishing trawler heading from Libya to Italy with an estimated 500-750 people on board sank in international waters off southwestern Greece. Only 104 survivors were found, and Greek authorities were heavily criticized for failing to evacuate the vessel in time.
The government has attributed the rise in migrant crossings since then to better summer weather and smugglers taking advantage of an increase in Aegean small boat traffic during the tourist season.
After nearly a million people entered Greece at the height of Europe’s 2015 migration crisis, the vast majority hoping to move north to wealthier European countries, Greece increased patrols along the sea and land border with Turkey to halt arrivals.
Human rights groups and migrants denounced the government for carrying out illegal summary deportations of people arriving in the country without allowing them to apply for asylum, an accusation the government strongly denied.