At least 15 people have died and about 30 are missing in the sinking of a migrant ship off the island of Lesbos, Greece, the Greek coast guard announced Thursday (6 October). Previously, the authorities had reported dozens of people missing after the sinking of another boat that would have carried around 95 people, off the island of Cithere, near the Peloponnese peninsula.
The bodies of 15 women believed to be of African descent were recovered in the east of the island of Lesbos, near the Turkish coast in the Aegean Sea, after their boat sank, a spokesman for the coast guard, Nikos Kokkalas, said on the channel. public television ERT. Nine other women were rescued but another 14 people are missing, he added, adding that about 40 people were aboard the boat at the time of the tragedy. “The women had gone completely crazy“, he described.
“They ended up in the water”
Hours earlier, a spokesperson said seven people who were rescued near the island of Kythera said the boat was carrying 95 other people when it sank. “The boat sank and they ended up in the water”he told AFP. She added that the survivors managed to reach the coast near an island port and were assisted by firefighters and police.
Information on their nationalities was not immediately available, he said. Winds of over 100 kilometers per hour were blowing in the area, the spokeswoman added. Some of the survivors managed to swim ashore, and a combined operation involving ships at sea and firefighters and shore-based police services resulted in the recovery of 80 people.
The sailboat sank near the port of Diakofti. Was “completely destroyed“, According to Nikos Kokkolas. No details were given on the nationality of the castaways. In the Cithere region, winds reached 102 km / h, the coast guard said.
Greece has seen an increase in migrant smuggling this year, with smugglers often taking the longest and most dangerous route into the south of the country. The makeshift boats depart from Lebanon, and no longer from Turkey, to bypass patrols in the Aegean Sea and try to reach Italy. The coast guard said it saved around 1,500 people in the first eight months of the year, up from less than 600 in 2021.
The dangerous crossing of a few nautical miles between the Greek islands, the gateway to the European Union, and the Turkish coasts of the Aegean Sea, located in the eastern Mediterranean, is costing the lives of many migrants and refugees who attempt the makeshift crossing to board boats to escape wars and misery.
64 dead since January 2022
Since January 2022, 64 people have died trying to enter Europe from nearby Turkish coasts, compared to 111 in the whole of 2021, according to data from the International Organization for Migration (IOM). Last December, at least 30 people died in three separate shipwrecks of migrant boats in the Aegean Sea. But it is difficult to establish precise data because some bodies are never recovered or are found on the shore weeks later.
Athens accuses Ankara of turning a blind eye to smugglers’ practices and allowing migrants to come to Greece in violation of the March 2016 agreement which included an effort by Turkey to limit the departure of refugees and migrants from its territory. Turkey denies these allegations. For its part, Greece is singled out by NGOs and the media for its responsibilities in illegal and often violent push-backs at its sea and land borders.
The conservative Greek government has always denied these rejections to Turkey, contrary to international law, despite the serious and documented investigations conducted by the international media and NGOs.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused Greece of turning the Aegean Sea into “graveyard” with “its oppressive policies“. The Greek minister for migration Notis Mitarachi retorted that Turkey was pushing migrants”With violence“to Greek territorial waters”in violation of international law“.