At least 16 dead in latest migrant boat accident in Greece

The tragedy was the third since Wednesday, amid high smuggler activity not seen in Greek waters in months

A ship with migrants near the Greek island of Crete. The UN estimates that more than 2,500 people have died or gone missing at sea attempting to reach Europe this year. AP

At least 16 people died when a migrant boat sank in the Aegean Sea, Greece's coastguard said early on Saturday, just hours after a similar incident claimed another 11 lives.

The latest tragedy, the third since Wednesday, came amid high smuggler activity not seen in Greek waters in months, AFP reported.

According to Athens News Agency, the coastguard found 16 bodies late on Friday, including those of three women and a baby.

The coastguard rescued 63 people from a boat that had overturned and sunk near the island of Paros.

Hours earlier, 11 bodies were recovered from a boat that ran aground on an islet north of the Greek island of Antikythera on Thursday evening.

Ninety people stranded on the islet were rescued, the coastguard said.

On Wednesday, a dinghy carrying migrants capsized off the island of Folegandros, killing at least three people.

Thirteen people were rescued, while dozens remain missing, Greek authorities said.

The UN refugee agency UNHCR said the Folegandros accident was the worst in the Aegean Sea this year.

“This shipwreck is a painful reminder that people continue to embark on perilous voyages in search of safety,” said Adriano Silvestri, the UNHCR's assistant representative in Greece.

Earlier on Friday, the coastguard intercepted another boat with 92 men and boys on board after it ran aground on the coast of the Peloponnese peninsula.

Three suspected smugglers who fled the boat on foot were later arrested.

The UNHCR estimates that more than 2,500 people have died or gone missing at sea in their attempt to reach Europe from January through November this year.

Nearly one million people, mainly Syrian refugees, arrived in the EU in 2015, after crossing to Greek islands close to Turkey.

“These days, the criminal activity of smugglers, who are indifferent to human life, has intensified, stacking dozens of distressed people, without life jackets, on boats that do not even meet the basic safety standards,” Greek Maritime Affairs Minister Giannis Plakiotakis said.

Updated: December 25th 2021, 10:16 AM