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Refugees head for Greek mainland after ferry strike ends

Published 06/11/2015

People queue in order to board a ferry at the port of Mytilene on the island of Lesbos, Greece (AP)
People queue in order to board a ferry at the port of Mytilene on the island of Lesbos, Greece (AP)

Thousands of refugees and other migrants are heading to the Greek mainland from the eastern Aegean islands after the country's seamen's union called off rolling 48-hour ferry strikes.

The strike, which began Monday, had stranded an estimated 25,000 people on the islands.

Ferries began operating again on Friday morning.

Several ships dedicated to refugees set sail from the islands of Lesbos and Chios, while others were taking ships from other islands on the regular passenger ferry service.

The ferries are heading to Greece's main port of Piraeus near Athens and the northern port cities of Thessaloniki and Kavala.

More than 600,000 people have reached Greece from Turkey so far this year.

The vast majority do not want to stay, and head north through the Balkans to other, more prosperous European Union countries.

Hundreds have drowned, including many children, when their overcrowded and unseaworthy boats have sunk or capsized.

Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras has invited mayors of eastern Aegean islands bearing the brunt of the current refugee influx to Athens for an emergency meeting on how to deal with the crisis.

The meeting is also being attended by the north and south Aegean regional governors as well as mayors and religious officials from the islands of Lesbos, Samos, Kos, Leros and Chios, and government officials.

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