13 migrants drown in latest Aegean Sea sinking

13 migrants drown in latest Aegean Sea sinking

ATHENS / LONDON - Agence France-Presse
13 migrants drown in latest Aegean Sea sinking

AP photo

At least 13 people including seven children, drowned when their overloaded boat capsized in the Aegean, police said Dec. 23, the latest tragedy involving migrants seeking a better life in Europe.

The small boat went down off the Greek island of Farmakonisi overnight, sending 29 people into the water, an official with the Greek port police told AFP.

Fifteen were rescued and taken to hospital on the nearby island of Leros, and a search is under way for one missing person.

“The weather was not particularly bad but the boat was overloaded as is often the case,” the police official said.

Some 700 people, many of them children, have lost their lives trying to cross the Aegean to Greece this year, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), many of them refugees fleeing conflicts in Syria and elsewhere.

Nearly 3,000 others have died on the perilous Mediterranean crossing to Italy.

On Dec. 22, 11 migrants including three children drowned off the coast of Turkey when their boat sank.

Aylan’s father to ask world to open its doors

Meanwhile, the father of toddler Aylan Kurdi, whose lifeless body on a Turkish beach became a symbol of the refugee crisis, has made a Christmas appeal to the world to open its doors to Syrians fleeing conflict.

The message, to be broadcast by Britain’s Channel 4 on Christmas Day, comes after the U.N. refugee agency said that more than one million migrants and refugees reached Europe this year.

They included over 970,000 who made the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean.

Three-year-old Aylan died in September after his family, sheltering in Turkey from the war in Syria, decided to make a desperate bid to reach Greece in a flimsy inflatable boat.

Shocking images of the toddler washed up and face down on the shore helped spur European nations to seek an effective response to the growing migrant crisis.

“My message is I’d like the whole world to open its doors to Syrians. If a person shuts a door in someone’s face, this is very difficult,” Abdullah Kurdi says in the video message.

“When a door is opened they no longer feel humiliated,” he adds, according to a transcript released by Channel 4.

Aylan’s mother Rihana and brother Ghaleb, 4, died in the same accident and were buried in the Syrian town of Kobane in September, days after the tragedy.

Abdullah Kurdi had been trying to escape along with his family and up to three other Syrians from the flashpoint town, which was last year the site of a months-long battle between Kurdish militias and jihadists.

“At this time of year I would like to ask you all to think about the pain of fathers, mothers and children who are seeking peace and security,” says Kurdi who now lives in Erbil in Iraq.

“We ask just for a little bit of sympathy from you.”

The UNHCR said that of the million who reached Europe in 2015, about half were Syrians fleeing the country’s brutal civil war.

“The number of people displaced by war and conflict is the highest seen in Western and Central Europe since the 1990s,” it said, referring to conflicts in the former Yugoslavia.