LONDON: The Greek island of Lesbos has run out of room to bury the bodies of migrants who have died trying to reach Europe, the island's mayor said on Monday.
Ambulance crews have protested about budget cuts and over-work amid the pressure of a record number of migrants and refugees crossing the Mediterranean last month. More than 218,000 people arrived in Europe by sea in October - all but 8,000 of them landing in Greece - according to UN data, the highest monthly total on record and more than during the whole of 2014.
Spyros Galinos, the mayor of Lesbos, an island in the eastern Aegean with a population of 86,000, said there were more than 50 bodies in the morgue for which the authorities were still trying to find burial locations. Mr Galinos added that he was trying to fast-track procedures so a field next to the main cemetery could be taken over for fresh graves.
Hundreds of thousands of people have made the short but dangerous crossing from Turkey to Greek islands this year.
With seas having become rougher during the autumn, the bodies of 19 people were recovered from the Aegean in three separate incidents on Sunday alone. Greece's coast guard also said that it had rescued more than 1,400 people in 39 search-and-rescue operations in the eastern Aegean last weekend, where high winds caused rough seas.
More than 70 people, many of them children, have died in the past week when the flimsy boats carrying them across the sea overturned.
Ambulance workers on Lesbos yesterday protested over state budget cuts that have left only three vehicles in operation despite the massive daily influx of refugees, many of whom need urgent medical attention. The drivers held a demonstration in the island's capital of Mytilene, then handed out clothes to refugee children.
Costas Filis, head of the island's ambulance workers' association, said that five ambulances were awaiting repairs and that staff shortages had forced rescuers to work up to 16 hours at a time.