Greek coastguard recovers one dead, rescues 27 on Lesbos island

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FILE PHOTO: Refugees and migrants at the Kara Tepe camp on the island of Lesbos

ATHENS (Reuters) - Greek coastguard officials recovered the body of one man and rescued 27 people from a rocky beach on the island of Lesbos after they apparently arrived by boat from Turkey, authorities said on Tuesday.

"We have rescued 11 men, 15 women and a child. They're all in good health," a coastguard official said, adding that the migrants are believed to be from Somalia.

Greece was on the front line of a migration crisis in 2015-2016 when hundreds of thousands of people used Lesbos, a few miles from the Turkish coast, and nearby islands in the northern Aegean Sea as the main entry point to Europe.

The influx of refugees and migrants to Greece fell by 80% last year compared to 2019. But more than 15,000 arrived by sea and land, data from the United Nations refugees agency UNHCR showed, and even in winter some are still attempting the risky sea passage on dinghies from Turkey.

Turkey hosts more than three million refugees and migrants and more than 90,000 are also in Greece, mostly housed in overcrowded camps while waiting for their applications for asylum to be processed.

The issue came to the forefront again in September after a camp on Lesbos was razed by a fire, leaving tens of thousands of asylum-seekers without shelter.

Athens has promised to build new, better-equipped reception centres on the islands of Lesbos, Samos, Chios, Leros and Kos by autumn and cut the maximum stay in camps on its islands to no more than six months.

(Reporting by Angeliki Koutantou; Editing by Mark Heinrich)