Authorities in Lesvos, Greece announced on Tuesday that at least seven migrants have been found dead there, their bodies washed up on a beach.
The victims, among them children and women, were migrants who started out from the Turkish coast to reach Greece by boat. Under conditions that are not known at the moment, their boat sank and they lost their battle in the icy waters of the Aegean.
Coast Guard officials estimate that the shipwreck occurred some days ago. According to public broadcaster ERT, four of the bodies were found on land and another three in the sea. The victims were not wearing life jackets.
Their bodies were discovered by passers-by who alerted the Coast Guard.
The bodies were transported by EKAB ambulances to the hospital of Mytilene, where an autopsies and necropsies will be performed by a medical examiner.
Coast Guard vessels are now scanning the sea to find possible survivors.
Lesvos, Greece the main entry point of migrants
Greece has long been the main entry point into the European Union for migrants and refugees fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.
Hundreds of thousands of people arrived on Lesvos’s beaches in 2015 after crossing on boats from Turkey.
The number of migrants and refugees arriving on the Greek islands in 2021, however, was at the lowest level since the start of the refugee crisis in 2015, according to the website InfoMigrants.
Based on the UNHCR data report, 4,109 people crossed from Turkey to the Greek Islands in 2021, as opposed to 9,714 in 2020 and just under 60,000 in 2019.
At the height of the refugee crisis in 2015, 856,723 people took this route and arrived on the islands of the Eastern Aegean Sea, Lesvos, Chios, Samos, Kos and Leros, according to InfoMigrants.
In a visit to Lesvos last December, Pope Francis branded the global indifference to the plight of migrants as the “shipwreck of civilization.”
The Mediterranean, where thousands have died trying to make the crossing from north Africa to Europe, was still “a grim cemetery without tombstones. Please, let us stop this shipwreck of civilization!” he said.
Greece has stepped up Aegean patrols
Since 2019, Greece has stepped up patrols in the Aegean in order to curb the continuing inflow of migrants coming from the Turkish shores.
In October 2019, 19 vessels were added to the 40 boats and two open sea vessels used by the Hellenic Coast Guard to patrol waters in the Aegean with the aim of reducing migrant flows.
Specifically, five patrol boats, 10 army vessels and four open sea vessels were added to the Coast Guard force.
In addition, 125 Coast Guard officers and 30 men from the Hellenic Army special forces were added to the 601 serving the central port authorities of the islands.
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