Greece blames Turkey after migrants drown in Aegean

AFP News Agency

27th Oct, 2021. 09:10 pm

A migrant is helped by a Hellenic Coast Guard officer as other migrants disembark a Hellenic Coast Guard vessel after being rescued at open sea, on the island of Chios, Greece, October 26, 2021. (Reuters)

ATHENS – Greece has blamed Turkey for a migrant boat sinking in the Aegean that claimed the lives of four people including two children, noting that Ankara should prevent smugglers from risking peoples’ lives at sea.

“Four bodies were retrieved without carrying personal lifejackets. The victims were aged four, 11, 25 and 28 years old according to the coroner’s report,” Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi told a news conference on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, Mitarachi tweeted four children died after the accident near the island of Chios in which 22 people were rescued.

On Wednesday, he said one to four people were thought to be missing based on the testimony of survivors. Three people were still in hospital, the minister said, adding that the migrants had come from Somalia, Sudan and Eritrea via Turkey.

“The Turkish authorities must do more to prevent exploitation by criminal gangs at source. These journeys should never be allowed to happen,” Mitarachi tweeted on Tuesday.

In a statement, the coastguard said the boat had set out from Turkey amid strong winds, and that none of the occupants had been given a life vest by the smugglers.

Merchant Marine Minister Yiannis Plakiotakis said the smugglers had shown “criminal disregard for human life”.

The coastguard added that in addition to the adverse weather conditions, the boat was overloaded and as a result, its underside came off.

“All those rescued are in good health and were taken to Chios harbour,” it said.

In a statement earlier, the coastguard had said 27 people were thought to be inside the boat, according to the survivors.

Coastguard patrol boats, a NATO vessel, nearby ships and fishing boats and two helicopters were participating in the search.

According to the UN refugee agency UNHCR, more than 2,500 people have crossed the Aegean from neighbouring Turkey this year, compared to over 9,700 in 2020.

Over 100 people died or are missing in migrant boat incidents last year, the agency’s data show.

Greece blames Turkey for not taking sufficient action to curb smugglers who send out migrants in unsafe boats and dinghies from its shores.

“This is the reality of the exploitation of migrants by criminal gangs in the Aegean — unscrupulous smugglers putting lives at risk in heavily laden unseaworthy dinghies,” Mitarachi said on Tuesday.