ATHENS - Authorities in Greece are facing the biggest mass migration push in years and the government in Athens is laying blame with Turkey.
Greece is beefing up its defenses along its land and sea borders with its neighbor; but, the heightened controls are starting to take a deadly toll.
On Monday, Greek government spokesman Stelios Petsas openly accused Turkey of engineering an organized invasion after Ankara opened its border to allow migrants to pass through to the West.
Petsas said Greece is being targeted with an illegal attempt to violate its borders and will repel any such efforts.
Authorities have already beefed up border controls and repeatedly tear-gassed asylum-seekers trying to enter Greece.
And on the high seas, the Greek Coast Guard has been pushing back scores of rubber rafts packed with migrants.
Turkish authorities have suggested those maneuvers may have caused the drowning of a young Syrian boy Monday. Greek officials said the child died after the boat in which he was traveling capsized off the island of Lesbos. Authorities tell the Reuters news agency the boat had been escorted to Lesbos by a Turkish vessel.
Lesbos residents, meanwhile, staged protests, calling on police to block migrants from setting foot on the island.
The residents say they are still reeling from an earlier migration crisis, and after seeing their economies shattered and tourism related-business fall by 60% … they want the 25,000 remaining refugees to leave.
The island’s mayor explains. Stratos Kytelis said the government in Athens needs to "heed our demands and safeguard our interests also."
He said if that does not happen, the people of Lesbos will take the situation into their own hands.
Nearly 60,000 migrants and refugees illegally crossed to the Greek islands from Turkey last year, roughly double the rate recorded in 2017 and 2018, according to the U.N. refugee agency.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has in the past warned Europe to share the refugee burden or face a new wave of migrants, as Turkey fears a new influx of Syrian refugees fleeing war. Turkey is hosting more than 3.5 million Syrians.