Greece rescues 77 migrants in Aegean Sea

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ATHENS, Greece (AP) - The Greek Coast Guard rescued 77 migrants Wednesday in two boats trying to travel from the nearby Turkish coast to Greek islands in the eastern Aegean Sea.

The migrants were picked up in separate incidents before dawn near the island of Chios, the agency said. No information was immediately available on the migrants' nationalities.

Greece is a major entry point for people, mostly from war-ravaged countries in the Middle East and Africa, seeking a better life in the 28-nation European Union. They often pay smuggling gangs to ferry them to Greek islands, frequently risking their lives in unseaworthy craft.

With thousands of islands, Greece has long said it cannot cope alone with the sheer volume of people attempting to enter the EU clandestinely. Over the past few years, the EU's border patrol agency Frontex has been helping.

Other southern European nations - Italy, Malta and Spain - have also seen tens of thousands of migrants heading to their shores.

Jean-Claude Juncker, who will be elected next week as the new EU Commission President, on Wednesday urged northern European nations "to show more solidarity" about solving illegal immigration.

"Frontex is part of the solution. A budget of 80 million euros ($108.7 million) is ridiculous ... They can't do their job. The budget of Frontex has to be increased," Juncker said in Brussels.

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Greece rescues 77 migrants in Aegean Sea
An African immigrant, one of among 32 immigrants survived from a boat accident which occurred on May 5 in Greek waters, arrives at the port of Piraeus, near Athens, on Monday, May 12, 2014. At least 22 people, including families trapped in a flooded cabin, drowned when a yacht and a dinghy crammed with migrants trying to slip into Greece capsized last week in the eastern Aegean Sea, next to the island of Samos, authorities said. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)
African immigrants, three of among the 32 survived from a boat accident which occurred on May 5 in Greek waters, arrive at the port of Piraeus, near Athens, on Monday, May 12, 2014. At least 22 people, including families trapped in a flooded cabin, drowned when a yacht and a dinghy crammed with migrants trying to slip into Greece capsized last week in the eastern Aegean Sea, next to the island of Samos, authorities said. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)
This hand out photo made available by the Hellenic Coast Guard on Tuesday, March 18, 2014 shows the coast guards retrieving a boat after bodies were discovered, near the island of Lesvos, northeastern Greece. Authorities in Greece said Tuesday they had recovered the bodies of seven immigrants who drowned overnight when the boat sank in the eastern Aegean Sea after traveling illegally from nearby Turkey. The Merchant Marine Ministry said another eight people were rescued near the island of Lesvos. Two of the bodies were found in the water off the coast of the island, while the other five were recovered from their semi-sunken boat. (AP Photo/Hellenic Coast Guard)
An African immigrant, one of the 32 immigrants most of them from Syria and Somalia who survived from one of the deadliest migrant boat accidents which occurred on May 5, in Greek waters, arrives at a port in Piraeus, near Athens, on Monday, May 12, 2014. At least 22 people, including families trapped in a flooded cabin, drowned when a yacht and a dinghy crammed with migrants trying to slip into Greece capsized last week in the eastern Aegean Sea, next to the island of Samos, authorities said. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)
This image made available by the Hellenic Coast Guard Friday, Nov. 15, 2013, shows a capsized boat on the coast of Lefkada, an island in the Ionian Sea, western Greece. Twelve migrants were found dead Friday and a further 15 were rescued after the boat capsized in western Greece, authorities said. The Merchant Marine Ministry said the victims included four children. The migrants were presumed to have been headed to nearby Italy from the western Greek mainland. (AP Photo/Hellenic Coast Guard)
A protester shouts slogans on a loudspeaker during a demonstration in Athens, on Tuesday , April 24, 2012. Hundreds of protesters march to oppose the government's plans to set up new reception centers across the country to temporarily host the illegal migrants arrested. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)
A group of migrants from Somalia that survived from an accident in the Aegean Sea last week, arrive at the port of Piraeus in Athens on May 12, 2014. At least 22 migrants including four children drowned in the Aegean Sea on May 5, 2014 after a yacht and a dinghy carrying them towards Greek shores capsized. Eighteen people were found dead on board the 10-metre (33-foot) yacht after it was towed to shore, the coastguard said, adding that another four bodies were recovered at sea. AFP PHOTO / ARIS MESSINIS (Photo credit should read ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images)
A group of migrants from Somalia that survived from an accident in the Aegean Sea last week, arrive at the port of Piraeus in Athens on May 12, 2014. At least 22 migrants including four children drowned in the Aegean Sea on May 5, 2014 after a yacht and a dinghy carrying them towards Greek shores capsized. Eighteen people were found dead on board the 10-metre (33-foot) yacht after it was towed to shore, the coastguard said, adding that another four bodies were recovered at sea. AFP PHOTO / ARIS MESSINIS (Photo credit should read ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images)
A group of migrants from Somalia that survived from an accident in the Aegean Sea last week, arrive at the port of Piraeus in Athens on May 12, 2014. At least 22 migrants including four children drowned in the Aegean Sea on May 5, 2014 after a yacht and a dinghy carrying them towards Greek shores capsized. Eighteen people were found dead on board the 10-metre (33-foot) yacht after it was towed to shore, the coastguard said, adding that another four bodies were recovered at sea. AFP PHOTO / ARIS MESSINIS (Photo credit should read ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images)
Immigrants arrive at the port of Chania on the island of Crete on April 1, 2014. Greek Coast Guard authorities mounted a rescue operation after receiving an SOS signal on Sunday, sent by a boat carrying illegal immigrants. The rescue mission successfully came to an end on Monday afternoon, with the Coast Guard rescuing 408 illegal immigrants, including 100 women and children, who were on board an old 32-meter boat, which was located 65 nautical miles northwest of Crete. AFP PHOTO / STRINGER (Photo credit should read STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images)
In this photo released by the Hellenic Coast Guard, local fishermen look a yacht used to transport immigrants illegally that overturned in a fatal accident near the Greek island of Samos, on Monday, May 5, 2014. At least 22 people drowned in the incident in the eastern Aegean Sea, while 36 were rescued and others remain missing. Coast guard officials recovered the bodies of two women, a man and a boy from the sea, and later found a further 18 bodies, including three children, inside the yacht after it was towed to Samos. (AP Photo/Hellenic Coast Guard)
In this photo released by the Hellenic Coast Guard, divers search a yacht used to transport immigrants illegally that overturned in a fatal accident at the port of Vathy on the Greek island of Samos, on Monday, May 5, 2014. At least 22 people drowned in the incident in the eastern Aegean Sea, while 36 were rescued and others remain missing. Coast guard officials recovered the bodies of two women, a man and a boy from the sea, and later found a further 18 bodies, including three children, inside the yacht after it was towed to Samos. (AP Photo/Hellenic Coast Guard)
A van drive past a barbed wire fence being built at the Greek-Turkish border in Nea Vissa on February 6, 2012. Greek Civil Protection Minister Christos Papoutsis on February 3 stressed the need for more personnel for patrolling the country's land and sea borders to combat illegal migration, despite calls by Greece's creditors for public spending cuts. Greece, which has received patrol assistance from EU border agency Frontex, has announced plans to build a 10-kms (six-mile) fence along part of the border to stem the flow. AFP PHOTO /Sakis Mitrolidis (Photo credit should read SAKIS MITROLIDIS/AFP/Getty Images)
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