Three new shipwrecks in just four days have also left an uncertain number of people missing, the UN refugee agency reports. The Greek coast guard rescues at least 160 people.
Three shipwrecks in the Aegean Sea were recorded between 21 and 24 December, adding to the tragic trail of migrant-laden boats succumbing in their attempt to reach Europe via the Mediterranean and the northwest African sea route. The toll this time was more than 31 dead and an unspecified number missing.
According to estimates by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), by the end of November the number of people killed or missing on these crossings already exceeded 2,500 this year.
UNHCR’s representative in Greece, Maria-Clara Martin, described it as “heartbreaking” that, due to desperation and the absence of safe routes, refugees and migrants feel compelled to entrust their lives to “ruthless” traffickers.
“More decisive action is needed to curb people smuggling and stop those who exploit human misery and desperation. It is disheartening to see avoidable tragedies like these repeated. We should not get used to seeing bodies being recovered from the sea,” Martin said.
In a statement, UNHCR deeply regretted this new loss of life in Greek waters and explained that, in addition to these victims, more than 160 people were rescued by the Hellenic Coast Guard, with the support of the Hellenic Navy and Air Force, as well as merchant and private vessels.
The agency commended the efforts of all involved in bringing the survivors to safety.
The three shipwrecks
According to information from the agency, the first shipwreck took place off the island of Folegandros on 21 December, with 13 people rescued and the bodies of three men recovered.
Testimony given by a survivor to the Hellenic Coast Guard indicates that up to 50 people may have been on board the boat carrying them without any safety equipment.
The second shipwreck, north of the island of Antikythera, resulted in the loss of 11 lives, while 88 people were rescued.
Then, on the night of 24 December, a boat carrying at least 80 people sank off the island of Paros, claiming the lives of 17 people, including a baby. Sixty-three survivors were rescued and taken to Paros, where local authorities and island residents rushed to assist them with blankets, food and clothing.
Originally published by UN in Spanish