ATHENS, Greece – In two separate heart-wrenching incidents involving migrant boats en route from Turkish shores to Greek islands, five lives were tragically lost, with multiple others rescued, according to Greek authorities.
The Greek coast guard reported that a migrant boat, carrying passengers in search of a safer haven, seemingly sank near the Greek island of Lesbos, resulting in four casualties and the rescue of 18 individuals. The victims included four children: an 8-year-old boy and three girls aged 14, 8, and just 11 months old.
In a somber revelation, Greece’s minister for merchant marine, Miltiadis Varvitsiotis, conveyed that the coast guard conducted the rescue operation within Turkish waters, as the Turkish coast guard did not intervene. Consequently, a Greek patrol boat stepped in to save the passengers, exemplifying the relentless efforts to prevent further loss of life at sea.
The rescued survivors were transported to the main port of Mytilene on Lesbos, where two individuals received medical attention at a local hospital.
In an earlier incident around 1 a.m. on the same day, a coast guard patrol boat encountered a dinghy carrying 37 individuals near the eastern Aegean island of Samos. Tragically, upon spotting the patrol boat, some of the passengers fell into the water, prompting an immediate rescue operation.
Efforts to revive a woman and a young boy who were pulled unconscious from the water were in vain, as the woman lost her life. Nevertheless, the young boy survived and was transferred to a Samos hospital alongside nine other survivors.
Government spokesperson Pavlos Marinakis expressed profound sadness for the loss of five lives and praised the extraordinary efforts of the coast guard to safeguard lives amidst the perilous journey. He emphasized the need to address the networks profiting from the vulnerability of migrants, underscoring the importance of uprooting the problem at its source.
The recent uptick in arrivals near Greek islands has been noted by the coast guard, as they have intercepted numerous boats over the weekend in the eastern Aegean Sea. This increase in arrivals aligns with the warmer weather and the seasonal rise in small boat traffic.
Greece has long been a gateway for individuals fleeing conflict and hardship in the hopes of securing a better future in Europe. This migration pattern intensified during Europe’s 2015 migration crisis, with Greece enhancing border patrols to manage the influx.
Although arrivals in Greece numbered over 14,000 this year, a fraction compared to around 104,000 successful crossings to Italy, the tragic incidents serve as a stark reminder of the ongoing challenges migrants face in search of safety and opportunity.