Refugee boat sinks off Greek island, killing 24

Greek coastguard officials discover bodies of 24 refugees including 10 children after boat capsizes

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

Flimsy boats packed with refugees are still arriving on Greek beaches every day, with the passengers undeterred by cold wintry conditions.

Twenty-four refugees including ten children drowned off the Greek island of Samos on Thursday when their boat capsized, Greek officials said as people continue to make crossings to Europe despite harsh winter conditions.

Ten were rescued unharmed but "in a state of shock" and 11 were still missing after the incident which occured on Wednesday night in Aegean Sea, which is also adjacent to the Turkish coast.

A coastguard official said five of the children that drowned were girls while the other five were boys. There was no information about the nationality of the 42 refugees that the dinghy was carrying en route to Greece.

Rescue efforts by Greek ships, a helicopter and two vessels from the European border agency Frontex still continue to find more survivors.

The coastguard said a refugee who managed to swim ashore told Greek authorities the boat had been carrying 40 to 45 people.

On Thursday, also another group of refugees rescued from Aegean sea, a few kilometers from the Greek island of Lesbos. Turkish coastguard officials said they rescued 52 Iraqi and Afghan refugees off the coast of the Turkish town of Ayvacik after their inflatable dinghy sank.

On Wednesday, rescuers found the bodies of seven drowned refugees, including two children, after their boat sank off the Greek island of Kos.

Refugees jump off a boat as they arrive on the Greek island of Lesbos, in this photograph taken on November 26, 2015.

Last week 44 people drowned in a single day when three refugee boats ran into trouble in Greek waters.

More than 600,000 refugees fleeing Syria, Afghanistan and other war-torn or impoverished countries arrived in Greece from Turkey last year, risking the short but dangerous sea crossing, often on inflatable rafts. Hundreds have drowned.

European Council President Donald Tusk had warned European countries last week to find an immediate solution to the refugee crisis. 

"We have no more than two months to get things under control," Tusk said, adding Schengen would otherwise fail.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte also commented on the European refugee crisis during his speech at Davos, saying that the number of refugees trying to reach Europe will quadruple when spring comes.

"We cannot cope with the numbers any longer. So we have to get a grip on this," he said.

TRTWorld and agencies