Greece blames Turkey after migrant children drown in Aegean

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Greece on Tuesday blamed Turkey for a migrant boat sinking in the Aegean that claimed the lives of four children, noting that Ankara should prevent smugglers from risking peoples’ lives at sea.

“Tragically, in spite of the best efforts of the Hellenic coastguard, four children – all between the ages of three and 14 – are confirmed dead, 1 person is missing, 22 were rescued and are being cared for ashore,” Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi said in a tweet.

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“The Turkish authorities must do more to prevent exploitation by criminal gangs at source. These journeys should never be allowed to happen,” Mitarachi said.

The coastguard told AFP that among the 22 people rescued in rough seas near the island of Chios were 14 men, seven women and another child.

In a statement, the coastguard said the boat had set out from Turkey amid strong winds, and that none of the occupants had been given a life vest by the smugglers.

Merchant Marine Minister Yiannis Plakiotakis said the smugglers had shown “criminal disregard for human life.”

The coastguard added that in addition to the adverse weather conditions, the boat was overloaded and as a result, its underside came off.

“All those rescued are in good health and were taken to Chios harbor,” it said.

In a statement earlier, the coastguard had said 27 people were thought to be inside the boat, according to the survivors.

Coastguard patrol boats, a NATO vessel, nearby ships and fishing boats and two helicopters were participating in the search.

According to the UN refugee agency UNHCR, more than 2,500 people have crossed the Aegean from neighboring Turkey this year, compared to over 9,700 in 2020.

Over 100 people died or are missing in migrant boat sinkings last year, the agency’s data show.

Greece blames Turkey for not taking sufficient action to curb smugglers who send out migrants in unsafe boats and dinghies from its shores.

“This is the reality of the exploitation of migrants by criminal gangs in the Aegean – unscrupulous smugglers putting lives at risk in heavily laden unseaworthy dinghies,” Mitarachi said on Tuesday.

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