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At Least 16 Dead in Third Migrant Tragedy in as Many Days off Greece

Refugees crossing the Mediterranean sea on a boat, heading from the Turkish coast to the northeastern Greek island of Lesvos, 29 January 2016. Credit: Mstyslav Chernov/UnframeAttribution-Share Alike 4.0/ Wikipedia

At least sixteen people died when a migrant boat sank in the Aegean, Greece’s Coast Guard said early Saturday, just hours after a similar incident claimed another 11 lives.

The latest tragedy — the third since Wednesday — came amid high smuggler activity not seen in Greek waters in months.

According to Athens News Agency, the Coast Guard found 16 bodies late Friday, including those of three women and a baby, and rescued 63 people from a boat that overturned and sank near the island of Paros.

The Coast Guard rescued from the wreck of the boat 63 of the passengers (61 men and 2 women). They were all transported safely to Paros.

Hours earlier, 11 bodies were recovered from a boat that ran aground on an islet north of the Greek island of Antikythera on Thursday evening. Ninety people stranded on the islet were rescued, the coastguard said.

On Wednesday, a dinghy carrying migrants capsized off the island of Folegandros, killing at least three people. Thirteen people were rescued, while dozens remain missing, Greek authorities said.

Traffickers endanger migrant lives off Greece

In a statement, the Minister of Shipping, Giannis Plakiotakis, said that Turkey is letting traffickers act uncontrollably and called for the mobilization of the international community.

“In recent days, the criminal activity of traffickers, who are indifferent to human life, has intensified, stacking dozens of distressed people, without life jackets, on boats that do not meet even the minimum safety standards,” Plakiotakis said.

“The Coast Guard, with the assistance of the Air Force, the Navy and individuals, has rescued more than 160 of our fellow human beings in the last three days.

I express my deepest sorrow for the loss of those who lost their lives, victims of ruthless murderers who are left to act uncontrollably in Turkey. Greece will continue to save lives that others are endangering in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean.

“In 2021 in total, more than 1,450 search and rescue operations have been carried out and more than 29,000 people have been rescued. The condemnation of the traffickers, but also of those who allow or facilitate their action, is imperative and self-evident and in this direction, we expect the additional mobilization of the international community,” the Greek minister added.

Greece is one of the most popular routes into the European Union for people fleeing conflict and poverty in Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Most attempt to cross in dinghies from the Turkish shore to the nearby eastern Aegean Greek islands.

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