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Greece: Coast Guard rescues 77 migrants found off eastern Aegean island of Chios


ATHENS, Greece — 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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