Greece: 7 dead after migrant boat capsizes off Lesbos

June 11, 2019 - 3:35 am

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — A boat carrying dozens of migrants to a Greek island from the nearby Turkish coast capsized early Tuesday, leaving seven people dead, including two children.

Greece's coast guard said 57 people had been rescued, while seven people — two girls, four women and a man — were pulled from the water unconscious and later confirmed dead.

A search and rescue operation in the area off the eastern Aegean island of Lesbos was called off after all those on board had been accounted for, the coast guard said. There were no further passengers reported missing.

It was not immediately clear why the boat capsized.

The number of people heading to the Greek islands from the nearby Turkish coast has decreased significantly since the height of the refugee crisis in 2015, when thousands would arrive each day. But hundreds of people continue to make the treacherous journey.

Although the distance from Turkey is short, smugglers often use unseaworthy boats and pack them way beyond capacity, leading to many sinking or capsizing.

Under an agreement reached between Turkey and the European Union designed to stem migrant flows into Europe, those arriving on Greek islands from Turkey remain in camps on the island. They face possible deportation unless they successfully apply for asylum in Greece.

The long and bureaucratic asylum application procedure has led to severe overcrowding and poor conditions in many of the camps.