US anti-Muslim incidents hit record high in 2023 due to Israel-Gaza war

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ATHENS: Greece’s conservative government promised on Monday to offer extra financial aid and more staff to help the island of Crete and its tiny neighbor Gavdos handle a steep rise in arrivals of migrants trying to cross to Europe from Libya.

In recent months, the islands of Crete and Gavdos, the southern point of Greece and Europe, have seen an unprecedented surge in migrant flows mostly from Egypt, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Since January, more than 1,180 migrants have arrived on both islands, up from 686 for full-year 2023, Greek coast guard data showed. Neither Gavdos nor Crete have migrant reception facilities.

“Crete will not be left alone and even more so Gavdos, which is a very small island with few permanent residents,” Migration Minister Dimitris Kairidis said after visiting both places.

“We are here to help the local community. The resources and the means are there.”

Last month, the European Union announced a 7.4 billion euro ($8.1 billion) funding package and an upgraded relationship with Egypt, part of a push to stem migrant flows to Europe criticized by rights groups.

Greece has been a favored gateway to the European Union for migrants and refugees from the Middle East, Africa and Asia since 2015 when nearly 1 million people landed on its islands, causing an unprecedented humanitarian crisis. Thousands of others died at sea.

Until recently, migrants had preferred islands further east near Turkiye over Crete and Gavdos.