UNHCR regrets loss of life in Aegean Sea

UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says it is distressed by the recent tragic death toll in Greece’s Aegean Sea.

UNHCR in a statement on Tuesday said no fewer than 31 people lost their lives in three separate shipwrecks between December 21 and 24, with unknown number of people still missing.

More than 160 people were rescued by the Hellenic Coast Guard, with support from the country’s navy and air force, as well as merchant and private vessels.

UNHCR commended the efforts of those involved in bringing survivors to safety.

“It is heart-rending that, out of despair and in the absence of safe pathways, refugees and migrants feel compelled to entrust their lives to ruthless smugglers,” it said. “More resolute action is needed to curb people smuggling and stop those who exploit human misery and despair. It is disheartening to see preventable tragedies like these repeating themselves.”

Maria-Clara Martin, UNHCR representative in Greece said “we should not get used to seeing bodies being recovered from the sea.”

The first shipwreck took place off Folegandros island on December 21, with 13 people rescued and the bodies of three men recovered.

One survivor told the Hellenic Coast Guard that as many as 50 people may have been onboard the boat that carried them without any safety equipment.

The second shipwreck, north of Antikythera island, resulted in the loss of 11 lives, while 88 people were rescued.

In addition, on Christmas Eve, a boat carrying at least 80 people capsized off the island of Paros, claiming the lives of 17 people, including a baby.

Sixty-three survivors were rescued and brought to Paros island, where local authorities and island residents rushed to assist them with blankets, food and clothes.

UNHCR estimated that from January until the end of November this year, more than 2,500 people have died or gone missing at sea in their attempt to reach Europe, through the Mediterranean and the northwestern African maritime route.


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