Three refugees die from hypothermia in Lesbos

Three refugees, including five year old child, die of hypothermia after icy sea crossing from Turkey to Greek island of Lesbos

Photo by: Reuters (Archive)
Photo by: Reuters (Archive)

Refugees jump off a boat when they arrive on the Greek island of Lesbos, November 26, 2015.

Two women and a five year old child died of hypothermia on the Greek Island of Lesbos on Wednesday while trying to make the perilous crossing of the Aegean from Turkey in freezing weather, according to the International Federation of Red Cross (IFRC) and Red Crescent Societies.

They were among over 800 mainly Syrian refugees, who were divided into 20 boats, battered by wind and snow and rough seas, as temperatures were below zero Celsius, IFRC spokeswoman Caroline Haga said.

"These needless deaths are shameful – we must establish safer ways for people to escape conflict, persecution and poverty," Karen Bjornestad, head of the IFRC in Greece, said in a statement on Thursday.

"Death should not be the result of a basic human desire to live in safety and find a future."

Despite the weather conditions 10 to 15 boats a day are arriving on Lesbos at present, the IFRC said.

According to Haga, the deaths of the three refugees occurred after their boat had problems with the engine and as a result took longer than usual to cross the sea.

"Normally all the boats that come are full of water because the sea is quite rough," she told the Reuters by phone from Athens.

"They sit there for a long time and they don't have proper clothes and they're completely wet when they arrive."

Also on Thursday, the Turkish Coast Guard announced that it had rescued 28 refugees, including children and women after boat sank near the Foca district of the western Turkish province of Izmir, as at least 12 people were found drowned.

In the past year, hundreds of thousands of refugees seeking a better life, mainly Syrians fleeing war, have risked their lives crossing the Aegean in an attempt to reach European Union countries.

In the first two weeks of 2016, more than 23,000 people arrived by sea in Greece and 50 have died, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said.

TRTWorld and agencies