Woman dies after accident involving migrant dinghy off Greek coast

The boat had been carrying 27 Somali migrants to the Greek island of Lesbos

A dinghy with 15 Afghan refugees, 5 children, 3 women and 7 men, approaches the Greek island of Lesbos on February 28, 2020 next to UK Border Force patrol boat HMC Valiant (background), a cutter patroling in Agean sea under European Union border force Frontex. - Turkey will no longer close its border gates to refugees who want to go to Europe, a senior official told AFP on February 28, shortly after the killing of 33 Turkish soldiers in an airstrike in northern Syria. (Photo by ARIS MESSINIS / AFP)

One woman died and another two were rescued on Friday off the eastern Greek island of Lesbos in an incident involving an inflatable dinghy carrying Somali migrants.

The Greece coastguard said 24 migrants who arrived early Friday told authorities that three women had fallen into the sea as their boat approached Lesbos and were still missing.

Patrol boats and a helicopter combed the area and several hours later found two women alive and the body of a third, a coastguard statement said.

The migrants told authorities they were from Somalia and had crossed over from the nearby Turkish coast.

Rescuers continued to search the area for traces of a migrant-trafficker thought to have been on the boat and who is believed to also have ended up in the water.

The United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, expressed deep distress over the accident.

More than 15,000 migrants and refugees have entered Greece illegally so far this year, most crossing from Turkey to the nearby Greek islands in unseaworthy boats provided by trafficking gangs.

Although the numbers have decreased significantly compared to 2019, about 17,000 people still live in camps on the islands as they wait for their asylum applications to be processed. Human rights groups have repeatedly criticised conditions in the camps, particularly at the largest, Kara Tepe on Lesbos, which has more than 7,000 residents.

On Friday, police said doctors had confirmed that a three-year-old Afghan girl found bleeding and unconscious in the bathrooms at the Kara Tepe camp had been raped. The child is recovering in hospital while police investigate the attack.

No arrests have been made so far.

Human rights groups have repeatedly warned that women and children in the camps are vulnerable to sexual violence.