A two-year-old child has died after a boat carrying 34 migrants collided with a patrol boat off the Greek island of Kos. One Syrian man is still missing according to the Greek coast guard.
The boat with 34 migrants on board was sailing from the Turkish coast toward the Greek island of Kos when it collided with a Greek coastguard vessel before sunrise on Wednesday.
Officials on Kos said that 32 people were rescued in an effort assisted by private boats and the EU border protection agency Frontex. One toddler was confirmed dead, while one 26-year-old Syrian man was still missing. Six migrants, including a pregnant woman, were injured and taken to hospital, the Greek state broadcaster ERT reported.
The coast guard blamed the crash on the migrants' vessel, saying it was hard to see in the morning darkness as it was traveling without light. "The collision happened in total darkness ... they are trying to make the crossing undetected and the dinghies are usually overloaded with people. It is sometimes very difficult to detect those boats even for vessels equipped with radar," coast guard spokesman Nikos Lagadianos told the Associated Press.
Due to the recent spike in arrivals to the Greek islands, authorities have stepped up patrols along the coastlines, particularly in the Aegean Sea.
A young boy from Syria has died in a tragic incident near #Kos island. One person is still missing. According to the Hellenic Coast Guard one of their vessels collided with a dinghy carrying 34 people in the night. Our team is heartbroken but ready to support the survivors. pic.twitter.com/xBN6KJfmrd— UNHCR Greece (@UNHCRGreece) October 23, 2019
New surge to Greek islands
Hundreds of migrants have been setting off on risky sea crossings from Turkey to the Greek Aegean islands nearly every day in recent months. The pace of arrivals, which started to pick up in April, is now at a two-year high. According to the UN refugee agency UNHCR, 42,010 migrants have arrived between January 1 and October 20. In 2018 it was 32,494 and in 2017, the number stood at 29,718.
At least 233 migrants drowned on the route from Turkey to Greece over the previous two years.
Greece hosts more than 70,000 refugees and migrants, around 33,000 of whom live in overcrowded refugee camps on the Greek islands. The majority of them come from Syria and Afghanistan. While the Greek government has begun transferring asylum seekers from the island camps to the mainland, decongestion is happening at a slow pace. The centers that were set up to process asylum applications on Lesbos, Chios, Samos, Kos and Leros had been overcrowded even before this year's spike of arrivals.
With material from AFP, DPA