17 children die as migrants brave stormy seas

2015-10-30 17:28
(Petr David Josek, AP)

(Petr David Josek, AP)

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Athens - At least 17 children drowned when three boats sank en route from Turkey to Greece, officials said on Friday, the latest tragedy to strike migrants braving wintry seas to seek asylum in Europe.

Nine adults also lost their lives when the boats went down, with the drownings once again highlighting the human cost as Europe struggles with its worst migrant crisis since World War II.

Although rescue officials in Greece and Turkey managed to pull another 157 people from the water, such drownings have become an almost daily occurrence as thousands of people brave high seas and wintry weather to make the crossing on flimsy, overloaded boats.

Fleeing war

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras expressed "shame" over Europe's failure to prevent yet another "humanitarian tragedy" and said it was crucial to prevent the Aegean Sea from becoming a graveyard for people fleeing war and misery.

Most of the deaths occurred off the Greek islands of Kalymnos and Rhodes, where 22 people drowned, among them 13 children, when two boats went down overnight, port officials said on Friday.

In total, 138 people were rescued from the two boats, with the coastguard continuing its search for survivors.

To the north, an AFP correspondent witnessed another boat foundering off the island of Lesbos, with a group of desperate people perched on the roof screaming for help.

Another four young children, all of them Syrian, drowned when their flimsy boat heading for Lesbos capsized in bad weather, although the Turkish coastguard rescued 19 other people, the Dogan news agency reported.

Rescue capacity

The latest deaths came after 17 people drowned off Lesbos and Samos on Wednesday, 11 of them children.

Despite worsening weather at the onset of winter that has made the already hazardous sea voyage even more dangerous, a record 48 000 refugees and migrants arrived in Greece last week, said the International Organisation for Migration.

With winter gales whipping up at sea, the UN refugee agency said there was an "urgent need" to strengthen search and rescue capacity in the area.
Read more on:    turkey  |  greece  |  migrants

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