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4 Children Among 5 Dead in 2 Migrant Boat Sinkings in Greece

migrant boat
Another migrant tragedy happened in the waters off Greece’s Lesvos. Credit: AMNA

Four children were among five people who died in two separate migrant boat sinkings off the islands of Lesvos and Samos in Greece on Monday.

The coast guard said four people died and 18 were rescued after a boat carrying migrants apparently sank northeast of Lesvos, which is near the Turkish coast. Government spokesperson Pavlos Marinakis said all four were children: an eight-year-old boy and three girls aged fourteen, eight, and eleven months.

Coast guard spokesperson Nikos Alexiou said the incident occurred within Turkish territorial waters, but the Turkish coast guard did not conduct a rescue operation, so a Greek patrol boat recovered the passengers. The survivors were taken to Lesvos’ main port of Mytilene, where two people were transferred to a local hospital.

Another migrant boat sinks off Samos

Earlier Monday at about 1 a.m., a coast guard patrol boat spotted a dinghy carrying 37 people off the eastern Aegean island of Samos, the coast guard said. It was announced that the passengers fell into the water upon seeing the patrol boat, triggering a rescue operation.

A woman and a young boy were pulled from the water unconscious and coast guard officers performed CPR, authorities reported. The woman died, but the boy survived and was transferred to a hospital on Samos along with nine other survivors, according to the coast guard.

“We express our deepest sadness” for the five deaths, Marinakis said at a regular briefing. He praised the coast guard for “superhuman efforts” to rescue lives at sea. “It is imperative that the dismal smuggling networks that exploit vulnerable people are struck at their roots,” he said.

Over the weekend, the coast guard said it picked up dozens of people from boats near eastern Aegean Sea islands, part of an increase in new arrivals over the past two months.

It said it recovered 20 people from a dinghy off the coast of Lesvos on Sunday, and 11 others from another dinghy that was sinking near the same island on Saturday.

Two other boats arrived on Samos on Saturday, the coast guard said, one carrying 35 people and one with 21 people.

For decades, Greece has been a preferred entry point into the European Union for people fleeing conflict or poverty in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia and hoping for a better life in Europe.

More than 14,000 people have reached Greece by land and sea so far this year, according to United Nations figures. That’s about a tenth of the total successful Mediterranean crossings, most of which—about 104,000—were to Italy. Arrivals in Greece for the whole of 2022 totaled 19,000.

In June, a battered fishing trawler heading from Libya to Italy with an estimated 500 to 750 people on board sank in international waters off southwestern Greece. Only 104 survivors were found, and Greek authorities were heavily criticized for failing to evacuate the vessel in time.

The government has attributed the rise in migrant crossings since then to better summer weather and smugglers taking advantage of an increase in Aegean small boat traffic during the tourist season.

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