Bodrum in Turkey is a popular tourist destination, and now it has become a magnet for travellers of a different kind: migrants fleeing conflicts in the Middle East and Africa and seeking a better life in Europe. At its closest point, the Greek island of Kos is only 4km (2.5 miles) from Turkey.

Every evening, while tourists eat and drink at Bodrum's upmarket waterfront restaurants, migrants gather across the street and wait to be taken to a remote beach to embark on their journey across the Aegean. Groups of eight people or more are packed into tiny inflatable plastic boats meant for a maximum of four, powered by tiny electric outboard motors and plastic paddles.

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Migrants wait on a beach in Bodrum, south-west Turkey, before boarding a small boat to sail to the Greek island of KosBulent Kilic/AFP
Migrants Kos Turkey dinghies
Migrants leave Bodrum on a dinghy and head to the Greek island of KosBulent Kilic/AFP
Migrants Kos Turkey dinghies
Migrants set off from a beach Bodrum in Turkey, heading to the Greek island of KosBulent Kilic/AFP
Migrants Kos Turkey dinghies
Syrian migrants push African migrants away as they try to board their boat off the shore of Bodrum, south-west TurkeyBulent Kilic/AFP
Migrants Kos Turkey dinghies
An exhausted migrant rests on the beach in Bodrum after trying and failing to board a boat to KosBulent Kilic/AFP

The departures are supervised by people smugglers, who typically provide a type of boat that can be ordered online for around €100 (£71, $110). The small electric motors cost more, but with smugglers charging about £750 per passenger — according to some migrants — it is a lucrative trade.

A Turkish government official said that the human smugglers have turned to the Aegean in the past year, after patrols increased on migrant routes across the Mediterranean. The Aegean is easier and safer than longer crossings organised from North African nations like Libya to Italy. About 7,000 migrants, mainly Syrians, reached Kos in July 2015, twice as many as in June.

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A dinghy carrying Syrian refugees drifts in the Aegean after its engine broke downYannis Behrakis/Reuters
Migrants Kos Turkey dinghies
A dinghy carrying Syrian refugees arrives on Kos after crossing a part of the Aegean sea from Turkey to GreeceMilos Bicanski/Getty Images
Migrants Kos Turkey dinghies
A Syrian refugee family's dinghy arrives at a beachfront tavern on KosYannis Behrakis/Reuters
Migrants Kos Turkey dinghies
A Syrian refugee seeks help from another after the engine of the dinghy they were onboard broke down a few hundred metres from KosAlkis Konstantinidis/Reuters
Migrants Kos Turkey dinghies
An exhausted Iranian migrant cries with his son and wife as they finally reach Kos after paddling an engineless dinghy from the Turkish coast (seen in the background)Yannis Behrakis/Reuters
Migrants Kos Turkey dinghies
A tourist offers water to Iranian migrants as they arrive at a beach on the Greek island of Kos after paddling an engineless dinghy from the Turkish coastYannis Behrakis/Reuters
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A Syrian woman hugs her son on a beach on the Greek island of Kos after crossing from Turkey in a dinghyMilos Bicanski/Getty Images
Migrants Kos Turkey dinghies
Discarded armbands and inner tubes float on the sea off the Greek island of KosMilos Bicanski/Getty Images
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Life vests and a deflated dinghy are discarded on a beach on Kos following the arrival of Afghan immigrantsYannis Behrakis/Reuters

A ship named Eleftherios Venizelos, with a capacity of at least 2,500 people, has arrived to house the refugees, aiming to ease sometimes chaotic conditions onshore. The huge passenger ship is ordinarily a car ferry which operates routes between the Greek islands and across the Adriatic to Italy.

The ship, chartered by the Greek government, is to provide accommodation for around 2,500 Syrians in its cabins and an area for processing paperwork.

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Two Syrian refugees watch as the Eleftherios Venizelos passenger ship backs into the quay on the Greek island of KosAlkis Konstantinidis/Reuters
Migrants Kos Turkey dinghies
Syrian refugees prepare to board the Eleftherios Venizelos at the port on the Greek island of KosAlkis Konstantinidis/Reuters
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Syrian refugees board the Eleftherios Venizelos car ferry in KosMilos Bicanski/Getty Images

Migrants desperate to get off the island fought each other after the passenger ship arrived. About 50 migrants from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran threw stones and exchanged blows as tempers boiled over. The migrants have little chance of getting aboard the ship, as priority is being given to Syrians. Authorities said people fleeing Syria's civil war would be treated as refugees but those of other nationalities, including Africans, Iraqis, Pakistanis and many others, are considered migrants.

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Migrants of various nationalities scuffle over priority in a registration queue at the police station on KosAlkis Konstantinidis/Reuters

Officials estimate there are 7,000 migrants in Kos out of a population of around 30,000, excluding tourists. The influx has overwhelmed authorities, but police registration officers working around the clock have greatly reduced the numbers of refugees stuck in miserable conditions on the island.

Refugees were first left to sleep rough in parks, archaeological sites and pavements. Then, after complaints from locals, they were pushed into an old stadium that lacks basic facilities. A handful of police struggled to register the huge numbers, using fire extinguishers to control the crowds.

Police flew in reinforcements to accelerate the process, and hundreds of migrants are now leaving Kos by sea for the Greek capital. Syrians who receive their papers can board passenger ferries heading to Athens.

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Migrants and refugees with temporary documents wait for a ferry to take them from Kos to AthensYannis Behrakis/Reuters
Migrants Kos Turkey dinghies
Migrants and refugees with temporary documents board a ferry to take them to AthensMilos Bicanski/Getty Images
Migrants Kos Turkey dinghies
Refugees and immigrants, supplied with temporary documentation, wave to friends from a Greek ferry bound for AthensYannis Behrakis/Reuters
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A Syrian refugee and his daughter disembark from a Greek ferry in the port of Piraeus near AthensChristian Hartmann/Reuters
Migrants Kos Turkey dinghies
A Syrian refugee boy reacts as he travels with relatives in a Metro train to central Athens after disembarking from a ferry at the port of PiraeusChristian Hartmann/Reuters

Most of the refugees won't stay in Greece for long. Their destinations are wealthier countries in western Europe, and all they want from Greece is their temporary travel papers that allow them to continue their trek through the Balkans and central Europe.

The European Union is struggling to cope with a migrant crisis that has seen more than 100,000 people arrive in Italy and an estimated 140,000 in Greece so far this year. The effects have been felt from the shores of the Mediterranean to the northern French port of Calais, which is linked by the Channel Tunnel to England.