A migrant boat capsized in the Aegean Sea late Friday, producing 16 deaths alone, bringing to at least 30 the combined death toll from three accidents in as many days in Greeck waters, before Christmas. The circumstances under which the vessel capsized were unclear. On Friday, rescuers managed to bring other 57 to land. Those rescued included children, women and men. The survivors were being brought to the port of Piraeus, near the capital, Athens.Only the bodies of 12 men, three women and an infant, were recovered from the area. Five coast guard patrol boats, nine private vessels, a helicopter and a military transport plane searched for survivors northwest of Paros. “People need safe alternatives to these perilous crossings [owards Italy],” the Greek office of the United Nations Refugee Agency, said in a tweet.
Smugglers based in Turkey increasingly have packed yachts with migrants and refugees. Some three people were arrested on smuggling charges this week. Dozens migrants were also detained. More than 116,000 asylum-seekers crossed the Mediterranean to reach EU countries Italy, Spain and Greece this year as of 19 December. Greece is one of the main routes into the European Union for migrants and refugees from Africa, the Middle East and beyond. “Such tragic deaths are avoidable (…) preventing people from resorting to smugglers,” Adriano Silvestri, The United Nations’ refugee agency assistant representative in Greece. declared.