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Society

Two Boats Carrying Refugees Sink Off Greek Islands, 17 Dead

MYTILENE – Villagers on the Greek island of Kythira rushed to help pull refugees and migrants to safety after a sailboat struck rocks and sank, saving 80 but at least 15 are missing. Meanwhile, 17 Africans drowned when their boat sank off Lesbos.

The two incidents came as Greece was denying accusations from Turkey, human rights groups, activists and major media reports of pushing back refugees and migrants at sea and on land borders.

Most come from Turkey where they had gone fleeing war, strife and economic hardship in their homelands, using that country as a jumping-off point to try to get to the European Union, mostly to Greece.

Authorities and local residents save a migrant during a large-scale rescue operation on the island of Kythira, some 225 kilometers (140 miles) south of Athens, early Thursday, Oct. 6, 2022. (Ippolytos Prekas/kythera.news via AP)

The occurrences also showed the desperation of refugees and migrants making, them risk the perilous journey, most from Turkey which lets human traffickers keep sending them in violation of an essentially-suspended 2016 swap deal with the European Union.

On Lesbos, “the women who were rescued were in a full state of panic, so we are still trying to work out what happened,” Coast Guard spokesman Nikos Kokkalas told ERT state TV.

EDS NOTE: GRAPHIC CONTENT – EDITORS NOTE GRAPHIC CONTENTS. Bodies are seen floating amongst debris after a sailboat carrying migrants smashed into rocks and sank off the island of Kythira, southern Greece, Thursday, Oct. 6, 2022. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

“The women were all from African countries, aged 20 upward. … There is a search on land as well as at sea and we hope that survivors made it to land,” the island still a favored destination for refugees and migrants for its proximity to Turkey. One of the victims was an African male.

The second rescue effort was launched 280 miles to the west, off the southern tip of the Peloponnese at Kythira, where winds hit 45 miles per hour, making sea travel treacherous and even deadly.

Fire Service rescuers and local volunteers on Kythira lowered ropes to help migrants climb up cliffs on the seafront, survivors clinging to rope as others were rocked by waves as they sat on tiny rocks at the bottom.

Bodies of migrants are seen next floating debris after a sailboat carrying migrants smashed into rocks and sank off the island of Kythira, southern Greece, Thursday, Oct. 6, 2022. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
EDS NOTE: GRAPHIC CONTENT – A human body is seen next to floating debris after a sailboat carrying migrants smashed into rocks and sank off the island of Kythira, southern Greece, Thursday, Oct. 6, 2022. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

“All the residents here went down to the harbor to try and help,” Martha Stathaki, a local resident told The Associated Press.

“We could see the boat smashing against the rocks and people climbing up those rocks to try and save themselves. It was an unbelievable sight.”

Kythira is on a route often used by smugglers to bypass Greece and head directly to Italy, which along with Malta and Spain are the other top destinations for refugees and migrants, most from Syria and Afghanistan but also sub-Saharan Africa.

The rescues happened after dozens scrambled ashore near the village port of Diakofti.

(Material from the Associated Press was used in this article)

 

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