At least 15 drown as migrant boat sinks off Greece’s Lesbos
ATHENS - ReutersAt least 15 people, including a child, drowned when an inflatable boat carrying refugees and migrants sank off Greece’s Lesbos island, officials said on April 24.
Eight bodies were recovered in Greek territory and another seven in Turkish waters, a Greek coastguard official said. The boat is believed to have set sail from Turkey late on April 23.
Citing survivors, the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR said 25 people were on board. Two survivors, one of whom is pregnant, were from Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo, the agency said.
Though fewer than 10 nautical miles separate Lesbos from Turkish shores, hundreds of people have drowned trying to make the crossing since the refugee crisis began in 2015.
In that year, Lesbos was the main gateway into the European Union for nearly a million Syrians, Iraqis and Afghans.
A deal in March 2016 between the EU and Ankara has all but closed the route down and just over 4,800 refugees and migrants have crossed to Greece from Turkey this year, according to UNHCR data. An average of 20 arrive on Greek islands each day.
At least 173,000 people, mostly Syrians, landed in Greece in 2016.
The number of refugees and migrants in Greece has swelled to about 62,000 in the last year, about 13,000 of whom are in camps on five eastern Aegean islands waiting for their asylum applications to be processed.
Violence has broken out in overcrowded camps on several occasions, as have protests against asylum delays.
Twelve Syrian Kurds living in Lesbos’s Moria camp for months began a hunger strike on April 21, the Athens News Agency reported.