ATHENS — Three kids and a lady drowned on Tuesday within the Aegean Sea after the underside fell out of an overcrowded dinghy carrying migrants from neighboring Turkey, dropping passengers into the water, Greek officers mentioned.
The our bodies of three ladies and a younger girl had been recovered off the Greek island of Chios, whereas one other 22 individuals had been rescued, the Greek Coast Guard mentioned in an announcement on Tuesday afternoon, including that one individual was nonetheless lacking. None had life vests, the authorities mentioned.
Greece is a key route for migrants and asylum seekers making an attempt to achieve Europe. However arrivals have dropped sharply lately, as have deaths at sea. Tuesday’s incident was uncommon in that the boat fell aside due to overcrowding, reasonably than capsizing as is extra usually the case.
Greece’s Coast Guard started a search-and-rescue operation early Tuesday. Coast Guard vessels, a NATO warship, personal boats within the space and helicopters scoured the world.
“The boat in query had left the Turkish coast overloaded with an extreme variety of passengers,” the Coast Guard’s assertion mentioned. It was this, mixed with antagonistic climate, that prompted the bottom of the vessel to break down.
A video posted online by Greece’s Coast Guard confirmed an empty blue dinghy bobbing in a uneven sea, together with footage of survivors wrapped in foil blankets aboard a Greek Coast Guard vessel.
Earlier within the day, there had been confusion concerning the ages of the victims. Greece’s migration minister, Notis Mitarachi, wrote on Twitter that 4 kids had been discovered lifeless. The Coast Guard later clarified that one of many victims was a lady.
Mr. Mitarachi additionally accused neighboring Turkey of failing to honor an settlement it made with the European Union on the peak of the bloc’s migration disaster in 2016 to cease smugglers from crossing the Aegean Sea.
“These journeys ought to by no means be allowed to occur,” Mr. Mitarachi wrote and urged Turkish authorities to do extra to crack down on “unscrupulous smugglers putting lives at risk in heavily laden unseaworthy dinghies.”
Though Greece was the primary gateway for round 1,000,000 migrants who streamed into Europe in 2015 and 2016, arrivals slowed sharply over the previous two years as border policing has intensified, partially due to the pandemic. Arrivals from Turkey have dropped by 90 p.c from 2019, Mr. Mitarachi has mentioned, attributing the change to the conservative authorities’s stricter migration insurance policies — which include abandoning some migrants at sea and have drawn vehement criticism from assist teams working with migrants.
The variety of deaths of migrants at sea has additionally declined. This yr, 19 individuals have died within the Japanese Mediterranean (not together with the toll from Tuesday’s incident because the search was persevering with), in contrast with 94 in 2020, in response to the Worldwide Group for Migration. Round 10 of the deaths occurred on crossings to Greece from Turkey, in contrast with round 50 final yr, in response to the group’s Missing Migrants Project, which paperwork the deaths and disappearances at sea.
Regardless of the drop in deaths, nevertheless, Tuesday’s accident put the highlight again on the risks confronted by migrants who proceed to danger the quick however precarious sea crossing from Turkey to Greece and prompted calls by NGOs for motion. “This tragedy within the Aegean additional reinforces the necessity to safeguard lives and improve entry to secure pathways and common migration channels,” the migrant group’s Greek chapter mentioned in an announcement.
“Folks face an not possible selection when enterprise these harmful journeys, which no one must be confronted with,” Louise Donovan, spokeswoman for the United Nations Excessive Fee for Refugees in Greece, mentioned. “However individuals will proceed to danger their lives if they can not entry secure and controlled options which we proceed to advocate for.”