At least 13 people were killed when a migrant boat crashed late Friday in the Aegean Sea, raising the total death toll from three catastrophes involving migrant boats in Greek seas to at least 27.
Smugglers are increasingly favoring a risky route from Turkey to Italy that bypasses Greece’s highly monitored eastern Aegean islands, which have been at the heart of the country’s migrant issue for years.
The coast guard said that 62 people were rescued late Friday when a sailboat overturned around 8 kilometers off Paros island in the central Aegean. The survivors informed the coast guard that there were roughly 80 persons on board.
Authorities claimed that 5 coast guard patrol boats, 9 private vessels, 1 helicopter, and 1 military transport aircraft resumed the nighttime search for further survivors, with coast guard divers also participating.
Smugglers operating in Turkey are increasingly loading boats with migrants and refugees and transporting them to Italy.
Earlier, 11 individuals were confirmed dead when a sailboat crashed with a rocky islet on the Antikythera island, around 235 kilometers south of Athens. After spending hours on the islet, the coast guard rescued 90 people, including 27 children, 11 women, and 52 men.
“People need safe alternatives to these risky crossings,” stated the Greek office of the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, in a tweet.
In a second incident Friday, three persons were arrested on smuggling charges and 92 migrants were seized when a boat came aground in the southern Peloponnese area.
A search effort in the central Aegean resumed for a third day after a boat that carried migrants sank near to the island of Folegandros, resulting in at least three deaths. Thirteen more people were recovered, but survivors indicated that at least 17 individuals were still missing. According to authorities, the passengers were originally from Iraq.
For migrants escaping poverty and violence in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, and Africa, Greece is a favorite entrance route into the European Union. Arrivals have declined dramatically in the past two years, however, since Greece built a wall along the Turkish border and started arresting incoming boats carrying refugees and migrants , a policy that has been condemned by human rights organizations.
According to UNHCR, as of December 19, more than 116,000 seekers of asylum have crossed the Mediterranean sea to reach EU nations. According to the agency, 55% went illegally to Italy, 7% to Greece, and 35% to Spain, with the balance going to Malta and Cyprus.