Greek coast guard rescues 20 refugees as boat capsizes off Greek island of Agathonisi
KOMOTINI, Greece – At least three children drowned when a dinghy carrying refugees sank off the Greek island of Agathonisi early Friday, Greek coast guard said.
According to a statement from the Greek coast guard, the aid call came from a military unit in the island, which noticed the capsizing boat with 23 refugees aboard early in the morning.
A rescue mission later sent to the scene pulled out bodies of three young children from the water. Survivors were taken ashore to the nearby Samos Island port.
Agathonisi Island lies just across Turkey’s Didim coast of Aydin province, which is considered one of the main transit points frequently used by refugees attempting to reach nearby Greek islands.
In a separate incident Friday, Greek coast guard also reported that one of its vessels from Samos Port Authority grounded in shallow waters in Turkish territorial waters during a routine patrol duty in the Aegean Sea.
According to the statement, the incident occurred when the Greek patrol vessel’s engine broke down while it was tracking a boat carrying refugees to Samos.
It added that they contacted Turkish Coast Guard Command in Ankara and called for help in removing the vessel from the area.
Turkey’s five Aegean provinces — Canakkale, Balikesir, Izmir, Mugla and Aydin — are prime spots for refugees leaving Turkey for the EU, with Greek islands lying within sight of the Turkish coast.
Over the past year, hundreds of thousands have made short but perilous journeys across the Aegean in a bid to reach northern and western Europe in search for a better life.
An estimated 805 people died at sea in the Aegean in 2015, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM). More than 847,000 arrived in Greece by sea over the year.