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Lefkada Syrian drowning tragedy felt in Kefalonia

Children and their father had been rescued only five days before from another boat

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The four small Syrian children and their father who drowned on Friday had been rescued only five days before from another boat off the coast of Kefalonia. They were fleeing the Syrian war, which had claimed the life of their mother, for a better future in Europe

Bidding farewell at Argostoli bus station on Kefalonia: The four Syrian children and their father (holding his son), with a local priest, Archimandrite Spyridon Peteinatos (left) Bidding farewell at Argostoli bus station on Kefalonia: The four Syrian children and their father (holding his son), with a local priest, Archimandrite Spyridon Peteinatos (left) A doctor has spoken about his devastation at the news that four Syrian children, aged between 3 and 7, and their father, who had been rescued from the sea only a week before off the island of Kefalonia, had drowned in a disaster off a nearby island.

The refugee family – the children's mother was killed in a bombing in Syria – drowned on Friday, when the plastic boat they were in capsized off the island of Lefkada. Seven others, all believed to have been Syrians, died in tragedy. Police believe they were attempting to reach Italy in a boat provided by human traffickers.

In the cruellest of twists, only five days before, on November 10, the children and their father had been rescued, along with 31 other undocumented migrants, from a boat that was adrift three nautical miles west of the island of Kefalonia, which is south of Lefkada.

"In the seas of Lefkada four children of the war in Syria drowned, children who only a few days before they were saved from the waves at Gerogompos in Kefalonia. Our European state then "touched" them with services, but really offered them nothing. They were not protected in the way they should have been and they returned on the waves. Official indifference proved to be more effective than bigotry against 'illegal immigrants'. One of the state structures that came in contact with these children was the paediatric clinic on Kefalonia, where they were admitted. We thought that we had taken care of them, but how were we to know about how other structures hide behind laws and paragraphs," wrote Evangelos Evangelatos, the director of Kefalonia's paediatric clinic, on his Facebook page.

The paediatric clinic had taken care of the children for a few days after their rescue off Kefalonia.

The four Syrian children and their father, nurses and Dr Evangelos Evangelatos (left) at the children's unit in Kefalonia general hospital The four Syrian children and their father, nurses and Dr Evangelos Evangelatos (left) at the children's unit in Kefalonia general hospital "Nobody in Kefalonia can believe the unspeakable tragedy that has befallen these little angels and their poor father. We are all complicit for what happened, because we live in a state that does not have the elementary structures to protect innocent minors," Evangelatos continued.

"This is terrible tragedy. The children, three girls and a boy aged 3-7 years old, spent a week at our clinic in our care. They were four beautiful children without a mother. Their father had said that they had been killed in a bombing in Syria where they lived. And soon after, they decided to leave their country in order to live safely in a European country. Their father was a gentle man, a teacher by profession, very sensitive and with values. We were told that he had paid €8,000 to reach their final destination."

Speaking to Eleftheroyptia, Evangelatos said that the man and his family collected some money to travel by bus to Athens. "They bade us farewell and we all kissed the little angels, believing we had contributed in our own way to their rescue. Later, we noticed that the children had made their own beds. It was a sign of their good upbringing. Hours later, we heard about the tragedy and are shocked."

He said everyone has a moral responsibility for what happened. He called on the government to pass a law allowing special protection for all infants and minors coming from war zones.

In his Facebook message, the doctor dedicated "The child with a trumpet", a poem by the poet, philosopher and humanist Nikiforos Vrettakos, to the memory of the children.

Meanwhile, police have arrested four people in relation to Friday's drownings, on suspicion of being involved in human smuggling.

The Syrians shortly after they were rescued off Kefalonia, 10 November 2013 (Photo: voutospress.blogspot.gr) The Syrians shortly after they were rescued off Kefalonia, 10 November 2013 (Photo: voutospress.blogspot.gr)

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