Fifty feared dead as two migrant boats sink off Greek holiday islands & survivors scramble up rocks to ‘save themselves’ | The Sun

Fifty feared dead as two migrant boats sink off Greek holiday islands & survivors scramble up rocks to ‘save themselves’ | The Sun

October 6, 2022

NEARLY 50 people are feared drowned after two packed migrant boats sank in high winds near Greek holiday islands.

Rescuers found 17 bodies – mostly young women – and were searching for at least 30 more victims early today.

Overnight a dinghy with around 40 people on board sank near Lesbos in the Aegean Sea, the coastguard said.

Nine women and a young man were rescued in a huge air and sea search effort.

Some were in hard-to-reach areas on the island after hauling themselves over rocks.

Another 15 people were believed to be missing although the exact number was not clear.

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"The women who were rescued were utterly panicked so we are still trying to work out what happened," said coastguard official Nikos Kokkalas.

The bodies included 16 women and a man.

It is believed all those on board were of African origin, and they had set sail from the Turkish coast a few miles away.

It came hours after a sailing boat packed with at least 95 migrants sank off the island of Kythira, south of the Peloponnese peninsula.

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The vessel was smashed on rocks in 63mph gales and was "completely destroyed", the coastguard said.

Islanders lowered ropes to help desperate survivors scramble up the steep cliffs.

The victims were buffeted by the crashing waves as they waited their turn on a tiny rock platform at the bottom, reports say.

"All the residents here went down to the harbour to try and help," said islander Martha Stathaki.

"We could see the boat smashing against the rocks and people climbing up those rocks to try and save themselves. It was an unbelievable sight."

A total of 80 people were rescued – including seven women and 18 children.

They were mostly asylum seekers from Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan.

At least 15 others were said to be missing overnight.

Human cost

Kythira is around 250 miles west of Turkey on a route used by smugglers to bypass Greece and head directly to Italy.

The latest tragedies deepened a heated row over migrant crossings.

Greece has accused Turkey of breaking a 2016 deal with the EU to stop people traffickers operating from its shores.

Migration minister Notis Mitarachi said today Turkey should "take immediate action to prevent all irregular departures due to harsh weather conditions".

He tweeted: "Already today many lives lost in the Aegean, people are drowning in unseaworthy vessels. EU must act."

Shipping minister Yannis Plakiotakis added: "Once again, Turkey's tolerance of gangs of ruthless traffickers has cost human lives."

Turkey denies the allegations and has publicly accused Greece recklessly pushing back migrant boats by force.

At the UN last month, president Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused Greece of turning the Aegean Sea into a "graveyard" and held up photos of dead migrant children.

Smugglers have changed routes in recent months in an effort to avoid heavily patrolled waters around Greek islands near the Turkish coastline.

The island of Lesbos saw hundreds of thousands arriving on boats from Turkey at the peak of the Med migrant crisis in 2015 and 2016.

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In total a million refugees arrived in Greece after fleeing war and poverty in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Numbers fell dramatically, but authorities say they have recently seen a sharp increase in attempted entries through the country's islands and land border with Turkey.

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