Migrant death toll off Greek island rises to 11

AFP , Saturday 8 Oct 2022

The death toll from the migrant boat wreck at the Greek island of Kythira, which prompted a dramatic cliffside rescue, has climbed to at least 11, the coastguard said Saturday.

Migrants in Mediterranean sea
Migrants swim next to their overturned wooden boat during a rescue operation by Spanish NGO Open Arms at south of the Italian Lampedusa island at the Mediterranean sea, Aug. 11, 2022. ap

 

The bodies of six migrants were recovered by the Greek coastguard off the island at the south of the Peloponnese peninsula, where a sailboat believed to have 95 people onboard sank Wednesday night.

On Friday, the first five bodies were found.

Adverse weather conditions in the area were hampering the search efforts on Saturday.

The boat went down beneath a huge vertical cliff and survivors -- mainly from Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan -- were hauled to safety in a pre-dawn operation amid gale-force winds early on Thursday.

State broadcaster Ert reported on Saturday that one of the 80 rescued migrants was arrested because he was believed to be a people smuggler.

Another 18 people, most of them women, died when a boat carrying 40 people sank near the Aegean island of Lesbos early Thursday.

The group were Somalis and only ten were wearing lifejackets.

Greece, Italy and Spain are among the countries used by people fleeing Africa and the Middle East in search of safety and better lives in the European Union.

The Greek coastguard has said it rescued about 1,500 people in the first eight months of the year, up from fewer than 600 last year.

Officials note that smugglers now often take the longer and more perilous route south, sailing out from Lebanon instead of Turkey, to bypass EU patrols in the Aegean Sea.

"There is a sea route from Turkey directly to Italy, with smugglers using larger vessels, such as sailboats and fishing boats," said Greek Migration Minister, Notis Mitarachi at the MED5 ministerial meeting in Paphos Saturday.

"There must be pressure at an EU level on Turkey to prevent illegal departures otherwise the loss of life will continue," he said.

Greece has rejected persistent claims from rights groups that many migrants are illegally pushed back to Turkey without being allowed to lodge asylum claims.

Southern European nations -- Greece, Spain, Italy, Malta and Cyprus -- expect 160,000 asylum seekers to arrive on their shores this year, Mitarachi told reporters last month.

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