At least 16 migrants dead and 30 missing after two boats sank off Greek coast

6 October 2022, 09:16 | Updated: 6 October 2022, 09:44

Migrant boat in Greece
Migrant boat in Greece. Picture: Getty

By StephenRigley

At least 16 migrants have died and around 30 are missing after two packed boats sank off the coast of the Greek island of Lesbos.

Greek coastguard officials said early this morning that a vessel sank off the Greek island of Lesbos in the central Aegean Sea, close to Turkey's coast. It is the second incident involving migrants in less than 24 hours, Greek officials said.

Rescuers said the sunken boat was carrying about 40 people and the bodies of 16 women were recovered on Thursday morning.

Another nine women were rescued and about 15 people were missing, the coastguard added.

The boat disaster led Greek Migration Minister Notis Mittarachi to call for nearby Turkey to "prevent all irregular departures" as he said "people are drowning in unseaworthy vessels."

He tweeted: "Urgent call to Turkey to take immediate action to prevent all irregular departures due to harsh weather conditions.

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

The incident comes after Greek authorities rescued 80 migrants whose boat sank after hitting a rocky area in stormy waters near the island of Kythira in southern Greece yesterday.

Officials said the rescue operation was still ongoing.

Coast guard spokesman Nikos Kokkalas told state television: "The women who were rescued were in a full state of panic so we are still trying to work out what happened.

"The women were all from African countries, aged 20 upward. ... There is a search on land as well as at sea and we hope that survivors made it to land."

Local resident Martha Stathaki said: "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.

"All the residents here went down to the harbour to try and help."

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Greece currently hosts approximately 50,000 refugees, according to the International Rescue Committee.

Many are forced to live in overcrowded and dangerous conditions as they wait months for their asylum cases to be heard, the humanitarian organisation said.

A report published in July found that hundreds of migrants who crossed the English Channel have gone missing from hotels.

Details of a "system failure" in the handling of migrants coming to the UK have emerged in a report by the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration (ICIBI).

The report found that asylum seekers are being arrested without explanation, questioned without interpreters and made to indicate their age by pointing at cardboard signs.

The watchdog found the Home Office had been "both ineffective and inefficient" and there were gaps in security procedures.

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