Europe

Greek island of Lesbos struggles to cope with migrant influx

Newly arrived migrants wait their turn to be registered near the port of Mytilene, on the Lesbos island, on June 18, 2015. Image copyright AFP
Image caption Many migrants who reach Lesbos have to walk 40km (25 miles) in order to register for papers

Record-breaking numbers of migrants are arriving on the Greek island of Lesbos, overwhelming local authorities, local police say.

About 1,600 landed on the island on Saturday alone, the island's chief of police said.

Police said they were working 24 hours a day to process the new arrivals but can only manage 300-500 per day.

More migrants landed on the island in June than in the whole of the previous year, according to the UN.

There were approximately 15,000 arrivals in June, compared with 12,187 in 2014. Lesbos has a population of just over 86,000.

'Absolutely overwhelmed'

Most of the migrants land on the north of the island at the closest point to Turkey and have to walk 40km (25 miles) to the other side of the island to register and apply for papers.

The papers will allow them to remain in the country for between one and six months.

The migrants are being housed in tents erected on an abandoned race track and in the island's only official detention facility.

Both facilities are "absolutely overwhelmed", said the BBC's Anna Holligan on the island.

A spokesman for charity Medicins Sans Frontieres told the BBC that the situation on Lesbos was the worst they had seen in Europe.

More than 1,800 migrants have died so far this year attempting to cross the Mediterranean - a 20-fold increase on the same period in 2014.

EU ministers agreed at the end of last month to relocate some 40,000 migrants who have reached Italy and Greece to other EU states over the next two years.

However, the scheme was not made mandatory after some nations in eastern Europe refused to accept set quotas, arguing that migrants should not be forced to settle in countries against their will.

The UK also opted out of the scheme using one of its exemptions as agreed in the EU Lisbon treaty.

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