EnetEnglish.gr, 10:38 Monday 20 January 2014
Twelve drown after boat carrying migrants capsizes in coastguard operation
Nine children and three women dead off the Dodecandese island of Farmakonisi
Twelve migrants - among them nine children and three woman - perish in the Aegean when the boat they were on capsized while being towed by the coastguard off the island of Farmakonisi
The coastguard spotted the vessel about 1.5 nautical miles off the coast of the small Dodecandese island of Farmakonisi.
The boat, which was carrying undocumented migrants, appeared to have stopped due to mechanical failure.
The "coastguard was tugging the sailing boat when, under unidentified conditions, two of the migrants fell in the sea. The migrants on board, in their attempt to find out what happened, went at one side of the boat which capsized," the semiofficial ANA news agency said.
Sixteen people are reported to have been rescued. The nationality of the victims is unclear.
A coastguard rescue vessel and patrol boat, a naval vessel and a Super Puma helicopter participated in the operation.
Uninhabited from a small military base, Farmakonisi, just off the Turkish coast, is regularly used by traffickers to drop off people who pay them to be clandestinely taken into Greece.
Finding it almost impossible to enter the European Union legally, migrants – many of them refugees fleeing war in Syria – have increasingly resorted to traffickers to cross the Aegean Sea, which has become the main gateway for undocumented entry into Europe.
Fatal sea accidents are frequent, with smugglers placing migrants into overcrowded, unseaworthy craft to make the short but often rough crossing from Turkey.
In May 2013, a 6-year-old girl drowned, when a small boat sank off off Farmakonisi.
In another incident, refugees told a human rights group that they were detained incommunicado and subjected to severe beatings on Farmakonisi for up to 3 days after being apprehended by the Greek authorities.