The Greek coastguard has recovered the bodies of four children and a woman, all migrants, after their boat was sunk outside Chios island on Tuesday.
It said it had rescued 22 people from a migrant boat that sank in the Aegean Sea, southeast of Chios island. The boat was carrying 27 African migrants when it capsized and sank. Four dead bodies were initially recovered, so they were looking for two more missing person.
According to the coastguard, thirteen men, seven women and a child have already been rescued. Greek authorities were notified of the accident early Tuesday morning. One of the migrants had used the 112 European helpline to report their boat was sinking.
The coastguard swept the mobile phone antennas and eventually traced the migrant’s phone signal. The first ship to arrive was a German NATO warship. Greek coastguard boats arrived a few minutes later.
Rough weather in Chios during migrants rescue
The rescue operation was underway in rough weather near the island of Chios. Nearby ships, fishing boats and two helicopters took part in the search. They arrived after the coastguard patrol boats had started the search and rescue operations.
According to initial reports, the sunken boat had a 10-person capacity. It was overflowed by 27 people, something unfortunately common in cases where migrant smugglers are involved.
A fourth body was found early Tuesday afternoon by the rescue. It was the body of a child. According to state TV broadcaster ERT, the woman and two of the children whose bodies were discovered, were members of one family.
The Search and Rescue operation continues for the last person missing from the boat. Two coast guard vessels, two helicopters, a German Navy ship from the NATO mission, three fishing boats and three commercial ships that happened to sail nearby are taking part in the operation.
No Turkish ships in the area
The rescued migrants and the bodies have been transferred to the port of Chios. No Turkish ships were sailing in the area during the accident. Strong winds of 6 in the Beaufort scale are blowing in the area, making the search all the more difficult.
Immigration and Asylum minister Notis Mitarakis sent a strong message to Turkey via a tweet. “The Turkish authorities must do more to prevent exploitation by criminal gangs at source. These journeys should never be allowed to happen,” he wrote.
In a following tweet, Mitarakis wrote: “This is the reality of the exploitation of migrants by criminal gangs in the Aegean – unscrupulous smugglers putting lives at risk in heavily laden unseaworthy dinghies off Chios.”
According to the UN refugee agency UNHCR, over 2,500 people have crossed the Aegean from neighboring Turkey this year, compared to over 9,700 in 2020. Over 100 people died or are missing in migrant boat sinkings last year, the agency’s data show.