As many as 22 refugees, including 13 children, have drowned after their boats sank in the Aegean Sea near Greece on Thursday and Friday. The latest accidents raised the death toll recorded over the past three days to almost 50.
On Thursday, 19 people, including six women and 10 children, were killed and 138 were rescued from near the Greek island of Kalymnos in the eastern Aegean Sea, witnesses said, according to the Agence France-Presse (AFP). The boat was carrying nearly 150 people from Turkey. A boat sank near Rhodes Island in southern Greece Friday, killing three, including a woman and a baby, while three others were missing.
"I want to express ... my endless grief at the dozens of deaths and the human tragedy playing out in our seas," Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras told the parliament, according to the Associated Press, adding: "The waves of the Aegean are not just washing up dead refugees, dead children, but (also) the very civilization of Europe."
The AFP report added that 68 people have drowned trying to reach Greece from Turkey in October, according to AFP. Alessandra Morelli, a United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees official for Greece, said in a statement Thursday: "We have warned for weeks that an already bad situation could get even worse if desperate refugees and migrants must continue to resort to smugglers who send them out to sea despite the worsening weather," adding: "Our fears are now being realized. Nearly every day now we are seeing children, parents, the elderly and the young dying as they try to reach Europe."
Tspiras also criticized Europe for not being able to "defend its (humanitarian) values" by helping the refugees cross dangerous waters through safer ways, instead of the frail boats used by human traffickers. "I feel ashamed of Europe's inability to effectively address this human drama, and of the level of debate ... where everyone tries to shift the blame onto someone else," Tspiras said, according to the AP.
Meanwhile on Thursday, another boat sank in the Mediterranean Sea south of the Spanish port of Malaga, killing four people and leaving 35 missing. The boat was trying to reach Spain from Morocco. While 15 refugees were found alive on the boat, Spanish rescue teams were still searching for the missing people Friday.
Europe is facing its worst refugee crisis since the Second World War. According to estimates by the United Nations, cited by the BBC, over 700,000 people have crossed into Europe, mostly from the war-torn Syria. Greece has been the main point of entry into Europe for the refugees, and the influx has become tough to handle for the country, which is already going through its worst financial crisis in decades. Tspiras believes, according to AP, that the refugees should be registered in camps in Turkey and flown directly to their respective allotted countries.
"This is a problem that exceeds the capacity of Europe, not a small country that faces its own financial crisis," Tspiras said, according to the AP.