The body of a small child has been recovered from the sea off the Greek island of Naxos. The child is believed to have been involved in one of two major accidents involving migrant boats which took place just before Christmas in the Aegean.
Greek authorities who recovered the body said that the child was believed to be about three years old. The child measured just 85 centimeters according to the news agency Associated Press (AP).
The child was pulled from the Aegean Sea just over two weeks after two different incidents saw tens of migrants die or go missing after their boats capsized, or got into difficulty, in the southern Cyclades group of islands.
Last Thursday (January 6), four other bodies also turned up, three near Naxos and one off the nearby island of Paros. One man, a woman and two pre-teen girls, reported AP. The body of the child will now be taken to the Greek port of Piraeus, in the capital Athens for "forensic examination."
On December 21, an inflatable dingy got into trouble just off the island of Folegandros, also in the Cyclades. 13 people, believed to be from Iraq were rescued, but survivors told the authorities at least 17 others were missing. Three unidentified men were recovered from the sea at the time of the accident.
On December 25, 41 people were rescued from a sailing boat just north-west of the island of Paros, which is not far from Naxos. The boat, which overturned, was believed to be carrying about 80 migrants in total.
The routes of the two boats, which are believed to have been headed towards Italy, mark a change in smugglers’ tactics, after the Greek authorities made it more difficult to cross from Turkey directly to the nearest Greek islands. The new routes aim to take migrants all the way across the Mediterranean to Italy, which involves a much longer, and potentially more dangerous crossing.
Forbes magazine recently reported on the change in routes. Their research found that the so-called Eastern route, from Turkey to the nearest Greek islands, had seen crossings drop dramatically from the final quarter of 2019 and throughout 2020, compared with the use of that route from 2015 onward. In that time period, reported Forbes magazine, "Eastern route crossings declined by around a third from just under 30,000 to around 10,000."
Taking more dangerous routes into Europe has also resulted in more deaths. In 2021, Forbes noted, citing figures from the EU border agency Frontex, deaths along all irregular migration routes into Europe "were the highest since 2017, and more than half the number of deaths of 2016, at the height of the so-called 'Migrant Crisis.'"
According to the UN Migration Agency IOM’s Missing Migrants project, from 2014 to December 31 2021, 23,312 migrants have died in the Mediterranean. In 2021, the number of those recorded as missing (believed dead) on the eastern route were 95. In 2020, the number of missing or dead was recorded as 106 and in 2019 as 71.
The Hellenic coastguard recorded 18 deaths for the accident which took place on December 25. According to their figures, 63 people survived, three females, 14 males and one minor were recorded as dead. The country of origin of these migrants was recorded as "unknown."
For the incident which took place on December 21, near Folegandros, the Greek coastguard recorded three dead and 34 missing. 13 people survived that incident.