Athens, Nov 17 () - At least eight people have drowned, while five others were reported missing when a boat carrying migrants from Turkey sank off the Greek island of Kos, the Greek Coast Guard said on Nov 17.
They were the latest of nearly 3,500 deaths at sea this year among people making desperate bids to flee war and poverty and to reach Europe, according to UN figures.
Seven survivors from the same vessel said up to five other migrants were still missing. Rescue efforts were under way on the morning on Nov. 17, the coast guard said.
The boat, which came from nearby Turkey and which capsized overnight, was spotted by the crew of a Finnish ship participating in operations by Frontex, the European Union’s border security agency.
More than 800,000 migrants, mostly fleeing war and persecution in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, have crossed the Mediterranean this year to reach Europe. The vast majority have reached Greek shores, from where they travel up to the Balkans and on towards countries like Germany and Sweden where they apply for asylum.
Turkey rescues 972 migrants in three days
Turkish Coast Guard saved o total of 972 migrants off the Turkey’s Aegean coasts en route to Greek islands from Nov. 13 through to Nov. 16, and caught three human smugglers.
The number of migrants saved from the Aegean Sea starting from Jan. 1 up until Nov. 16 has been 78.646, while 151 human smugglers were also caught in the same period, the Turkish Coast Guard said.
As migrants continue to try to reach Europe for better living conditions, the U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR, urged European countries on Nov. 17 not to react to Friday’s attacks in Paris by rejecting or blaming refugees, the vast majority of whom were fleeing persecution or conflict.
“We are concerned about reactions by some states to end the programs being put in place, backtracking from commitments made to manage the refugee crisis [i.e. relocation], or proposing the erection of more barriers,” Reuters quoted UNHCR’s chief spokeswoman Melissa Fleming as saying.
“We are deeply disturbed by language that demonizes refugees as a group. This is dangerous as it will contribute to xenophobia and fear.”
The heads of the EU think differently. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said Nov. 15 there was no need for a complete review of the bloc’s refugee policy after the Paris attacks claimed by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) jihadists.