ATHENS – Two weeks after more than 30 refugees and migrants drowned in three separate incidents in the Aegean trying to reach Greece, bodies are showing up and being recovered, the lastest a young child off the island of Naxos.
Officials said it was believed to be that of a 3-year-old but no identification as is often the case after hundreds have died trying to reach Greece and the European Union since 2015.
The discovery was made Jan. 8, two days after four other bodies belonging to a man, a woman and two pre-teen girls were found, three off Naxos and one off the nearby island of Paros, adding to the grim toll.
On Dec. 22, 12 people, all believed to be from Iraq, were rescued from an inflatable dinghy off Folegandros in the southern Cyclades, 180 kilometers (112 miles) southeast of Athens.
The bodies of three unidentified men were recovered from the sea but survivors of that incident said that at least 17 others were missing and two days later 41 people were rescued after a sailboat carrying about 80 migrants overturned off Paros.
As Greece has tightened patrols off its eastern Aegean islands, close to the Turkish coastline, smugglers based in Turkey have increasingly packed yachts with migrants and refugees and sent them toward Italy.
Turkey has accused Greece of pushing them back – which Greece has denied despite video evidence seeming to show it happened – but the European Union hasn’t sanctioned Turkey for allowing human traffickers to keep sending more in violation of an essentially-suspended 2016 swap deal.
Turkey is holding some 4.4 million refugees and migrants who went there fleeing war, strife and economic hardship in their homelands, predominantly Syria and Afghanista, in hopes of reaching the EU which closed its borders to them, dumping the problem on Greece, as well as Italy, Malta and Spain.
In 2021, more than 116,000 asylum-seekers crossed the Mediterranean to reach EU countries, the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR said. The agency said 55 percent went to Italy, 35 percent to Spain and 7 percent to Greece, the remainder were heading to Malta and Cyprus.
(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)