One woman drowned and two women were rescued off the Greek island of Lesbos on Friday. They had fallen out of an overcrowded inflatable raft carrying dozens of Somali migrants.
When the raft reached Lesbos earlier on Friday with 24 people on board, the passengers told Greek authorities three women fell into the sea as their boat approached Lesbos.
Several hours into their search, patrol boats and a helicopter found two women alive in the water and the body of a third, the coast guard said.
The migrants told authorities they were from Somalia and had crossed over from the nearby Turkish coast. Rescuers continued to search the area for traces of a migrant-trafficker thought to have been on the boat and to have also ended up in the water.
Series of drownings
The Greek island of Lesbos is one of the main points of arrival for migrants on the EU's southeastern border. UN refugee agency UNHCR expressed "deep distress" at the accident.
Most of the more than 15,000 migrants who have entered Greece irregularly so far this year crossed over from Turkey to the Greek islands. The distance between the Turkish coast and islands like Lesbos is only a few kilometers.
Nevertheless, the crossing is very dangerous. Many of the boats traffickers use are unseaworthy and sink during the crossing, due to strong winds or overcrowding. Over the past few months, there have been several incidents where migrants lost their lives trying to cross the ocean to Greece:
- In early December, two 20-year-old female migrants from Somalia drowned off Lesbos after a boat carrying more than 30 people sank.
- On November 9, the body of a six-year-old boy was found off the island of Samos after a boat sank. Seven people were recovered alive.
- In September, at least three people drowned and 56 were rescued when a boat carrying migrants capsized due to heavy winds off the Greek island of Crete.
With Reuters, AP