Kos: An unprecedented spike in refugee arrivals on Greek shores is pushing the resort island of Lesbos to "breaking point", with some 2,000 people landing there every day, an aid group warned Tuesday.
The International Rescue Committee (IRC) warned that the sheer volume of the arrivals was "overwhelming" the already limited support structure on Lesbos.
In the last week alone, 20,843 migrants -- virtually all of them fleeing war and persecution in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq -- have arrived in Greece, which has seen around 160,000 migrants land on its shores since January.
People taking perilous, and sometimes deadly, journeys in inflatable boats from Turkey to Greek islands like Lesbos then travel to Athens and onward to northern Europe.
"A dramatic increase in the number of refugees arriving in Lesbos and a lack of available space on ferries to the mainland risks leaving thousands stranded and overwhelming the limited support on the island," the IRC said in a statement.
Some 6,500 refugees were on Lesbos on Monday night, the IRC said, and ferries to the mainland are booked until the middle of next week, while the number of arrivals continues to rise at a time when thousands of tourists are also on the island.
"Unless further ships are made available the total number of refugees on Lesbos, which normally has a population of nearly 90,000 people, could rise to more than 20,000 before the ferry service is able to accommodate them," the IRC said.
"The spike in the number of arrivals over the past few days and the inability for refugees to leave the island risks Lesbos reaching breaking point," said the group`s emergency field coordinator on Lesbos, Kirk Day.
On the island of Kos, which is also seeing hundreds of new arrivals every night, the situation has somewhat improved since Sunday when Greek authorities started registering and hosting Syrians on board a ferry, speeding up the registration process.
With the ferry nearing full capacity on Tuesday, however, there were unconfirmed reports that it would take 1,750 refugees to the mainland on Wednesday night and then return to the island.
At the weekend, travel agencies and ferry ticket offices faced long queues of tourists and migrants looking for tickets to Athens.
One travel agent in Kos told AFP there is still a two-day delay for tickets to Athens. The delay appears to affect migrants more, as many visitors to Kos had pre-booked their seats to the capital before taking their holiday.
However unlike Lesbos, Kos has no transit camp, leaving some 2,500 people still on the resort island to sleep rough until they are able to leave.
"The situation is still very complicated," UN refugee agency emergency coordinator Roberto Mignone told AFP on the island.
The IRC`s Day said: "It is vital that anyone who escapes war or survived an extremely traumatic journey are properly supported with food, water, shelter and medical checks when they arrive.
"Unfortunately this basic level of reception has not been possible as there hasn`t been the funding or political will to properly tackle the refugee crisis in Greece," he added.