The Greek Coast Guard has recovered the bodies of four children and a woman, all migrants, after their boat sunk in the sea off Chios Island on Tuesday.
The Coast Guard authorities said it had rescued 22 people from a migrant boat that sank in the Aegean Sea southeast of Chios. The boat was carrying 27 African migrants when it capsized and sank. Four dead bodies were initially recovered, so they were looking for two more missing persons.
According to the Coast Guard, thirteen men, seven women and a child have already been rescued. Greek authorities were notified of the accident early Tuesday morning. One of the migrants had used the 112 European emergency services phone line to report their boat was sinking.
The Coast Guard swept the mobile phone antennas and eventually traced the migrant’s phone signal to the sunken craft. The first ship to arrive on scene was a German NATO warship. Greek Coast Guard boats arrived a few minutes later.
Rough weather in Chios during migrants’ rescue
The rescue operation got underway in rough weather near the island of Chios. Nearby ships, fishing boats and two helicopters took part in the search. They arrived after the Coast Guard patrol boats had started the search and rescue operations.
According to initial reports, the sunken boat had a capacity of ten persons. It was carrying a total of 27 people, however — a unfortunate and common occurrence in cases involving migrant smugglers.
A fourth body, that of a child, was found early Tuesday afternoon by the rescue services. According to state TV broadcaster ERT, the woman and two of the children whose bodies were discovered were members of the same family.
The search and rescue operation continues for the last person reported missing from the boat. Two Coast Guard vessels, two helicopters, a German Navy ship from the NATO mission, three fishing boats and three commercial ships that happened to sail nearby are still taking part in the operation.
No Turkish ships in the area
The rescued migrants and the bodies have been transferred to the port of Chios. No Turkish ships were sailing in the area during the accident. Strong winds of 6 on the Beaufort scale are blowing in the area, making the search all the more difficult.
Immigration and Asylum minister Notis Mitarakis sent a strong message to Turkey via a tweet after the deadly accident. “The Turkish authorities must do more to prevent exploitation by criminal gangs at source. These journeys should never be allowed to happen,” he wrote.
The Turkish authorities must do more to prevent exploitation by criminal gangs at source. These journeys should never be allowed to happen. pic.twitter.com/G95PrgsWaD
— Νότης Μηταράκης – Notis Mitarachi (@nmitarakis) October 26, 2021
In a following tweet, Mitarakis charged “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 off Chios.”
Greece has been accusing Turkey of using migrants for political gains. Since the 2015 migrant crisis on the Aegean islands, there have been accusations than on occasion, Turkey has been encouraging migrants on its shores to travel the Aegean sea.
According to the UN refugee agency UNHCR, over 2,500 people have crossed the Aegean from neighboring Turkey this year, compared to over 9,700 in 2020. Over 100 people died or are missing in migrant boat sinkings last year, the agency’s data shows.