Seven people were confirmed dead after a boat, transferring refugees from the Turkish coast to Greek island, has capsized. Coastguards rescued 57 people, while four women, man, and two children were drawn out of the water dead. The operation nearby the eastern Aegean island of Lesbos was called off after all the reported passengers were saved. No further information about the incident as well as the nationality of refugees has been provided.
“Redoubled efforts are needed to ensure safe and legal ways to reach Europe, so people stop risking their lives in the hands of ruthless traffickers and smugglers,” said Philippe Leclerc, the UNHCR representative in Greece. Greece has recently been one of the main gateways for migrants coming to Europe. While the refugee crisis is deemed to be the worst one since World War II, the number of migrants declined significantly since 2015. According to Frontex, the European Union’s border force, the number of people entering Europe through Greek islands from the Turkish coast declined from 875.000 in 2015 to under 40.000 per year in 2017 and 2018.
“This tragedy is a painful reminder that people continue to take perilous journeys to reach the Greek Aegean islands,” continued Leclerc, referring to hundreds of migrants that continue to make the treacherous journey. While the distance between Turkey and Greece is short, out of about 10.700 refugees who reached Greece this year by sea, as many as 39 have lost their lives. Smugglers, in an attempt to transfer as many people as possible, often pack unseaworthy boats beyond capacity leading to many sinking.