Five people, including four children, died and dozens were rescued Monday in two separate incidents involving migrant boats heading to Greek islands from nearby Turkey.
The Greek coast guard said five people died and 18 were rescued after one boat carrying 22 migrants reportedly sank northeast of the Greek island of Lesbos, near Turkey.
A Government spokesperson said four were children: an 8-year-old boy and three girls aged 14, 8 and 11 months.
According to local media, the incident happened three nautical miles inside Turkish waters. A coast guard official, Nikos Alexiou, said the Turkish authorities were informed but did not conduct a rescue operation. Therefore, the Greeks issued an order to recover the passengers.
The survivors were taken to Lesbos’ main port of Mytilene, where two people were transferred to a local hospital.
Around 01:00 am on Monday, Greek patrols spotted a dingy carrying 37 people off the eastern Aegean island of Samos. The marine authority said that some of the occupants fell into the water at the sight of the patrol ship.
An unconscious woman and boy were recovered by the guards who tried to resuscitate them. While the woman died, the boy survived and was transferred to a hospital in Samos, along with nine other people.
An increase in migrant crossings to Greece
Over the weekend, the coast guard said it picked up dozens of people from boats near islands in the Aegean Sea.
For decades, Greece has been a preferred entry point into the European Union for people fleeing conflict or poverty in the Middle East, Africa and Asia and hoping for a better life in Europe.
According to United Nations figures, over 14,000 people have reached Greece by land and sea so far this year. That’s about a tenth of the total successful Mediterranean crossings.
The government has attributed the rise in migrant crossings since then to better summer weather and smugglers taking advantage of an increase in Aegean small-boat traffic during the tourist season.
Nearly a million people entered Greece at the height of Europe’s 2015 migration crisis, the vast majority hoping to move north to wealthier European countries. Subsequently, the Hellenistic country increased patrols along the sea and land border with Turkey to halt arrivals.
Human rights groups and migrants have accused the government of carrying out summary deportations of people arriving to the country, without allowing them to apply for asylum. The Greek government has refuted the allegation.
Source: Euro News