March 9, 2020 / 3:15 PM / 20 days ago

NGO activists say they were hounded by anti-migrant agitators on Lesbos

ATHENS (Reuters) - Activists helping migrants in distress in the Aegean Sea have been adrift off the island of Lesbos for a week after agitators opposed to their work refused to let their ship dock, they said on Monday.

The rescue vessel of the NGO Mare Liberum is seen at the port of Mytilene on the island of Lesbos, Greece, March 5, 2020. Picture taken March 5, 2020. Mare Liberum/Handout via REUTERS

Activists on board the Mare Liberum said the vessel was prevented from docking in Lesbos on two occasions.

“People gathered to chase us away and at some point authorities told us they cannot guarantee our safety,” said Flo Strass, a crew member.

“So for now we are trying to find ways to get a safe port on this island again,” she told Reuters in a video sent via WhatsApp.

Police had no immediate comment.

Lesbos is one of the closest Greek islands to the Turkish coast and was one of the main gateways for hundreds of thousands of refugees and asylum seekers who headed to Europe in 2015 and 2016.

There has been a resurgence in arrivals after Turkey announced in late February it would no longer contain 3.6 million refugees it has hosted under an accord with the EU in 2016 to stem the flow.

Lesbos still hosts more than 20,000 people in overcrowded filthy camps, and sentiment toward them, and aid organizations, has progressively turned sour.

The Mare Liberum, a wooden ship belonging to the Berlin-based non-governmental organization of the same name, has been conducting human rights monitoring in the narrow sea straits between Turkey and Greece for the past two years.

The group says it needs supplies and a safe port to continue its work on human rights monitoring.

Reporting By Michele Kambas, Editing by William Maclean

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