Greece - The number of migrants who are losing their lives in the Mediterranean continues to increase dramatically. Over this past weekend, and through the first days of this week, an estimated 72 migrants have lost their lives in their attempt to cross into the Greek islands from Turkey.
Additionally, IOM Turkey received data from the Turkish Coast Guard indicating some 13 migrants already have died in Turkish waters through the beginning of September, making this month the deadliest on that stretch of the Mediterranean in two years.
This morning IOM received reports of at least 22 migrants drowning in the Aegean Sea. Fatalities are said to include four children drowned while 211 migrants were rescued after a Kos-bound boat capsized.
The 20-meter wooden boat, which was also used for boat tours, capsized at around 6 a.m. off the coast of Turkey’s southwestern Datça district, according to one news service report, which said bodies of the 22 victims have been recovered.
Meanwhile, there were reports of two more Syrian migrants drowning Monday in an attempt to reach a Greek off the coast of İzmir’s Seferihisar district. A fishing boat spotted the migrants at around 10:55 a.m. and started rescue efforts. Coast guard boats soon joined the effort and managed to rescue 11 migrants while recovering the bodies of two others.
On Saturday (September 12th, 2015) a boat carrying 29 migrants capsized off the Coast of Samos Island. The Hellenic Coast Guard managed to rescue 25 migrants. However, four children remained missing from that shipwreck on Monday night. Three of the missing are believed to be siblings from Iraq; the other reportedly came from Syria.
The mother of the Iraqi siblings told IOM staff in Samos that, besides the loss of her children, she also lost her husband. The Hellenic Coast Guard was continuing the search operation to identify the missing minors.
Also on Saturday, the Hellenic Coast Guard rescued 32 migrants off the coast of Lesvos. According to testimonies of those rescued, one Syrian man, 20 years old, is still missing.
On Sunday (September 13th, 2015) one more incident was recorded off the Coast of Farmakonisi Island when a wooden boat carrying more than 100 migrants from Syria and Iraq capsized. During rescue operations, the Hellenic Coast Guard rescued 98 migrants and identified the remains of 34 others. Among those who lost their lives were three infants, five minor girls, and six minor boys. Ten adult women and nine men also reportedly lost their lives.
The Hellenic Coast Guard continues the search operations as the people who were rescued did not know the exact number of migrants who boarded with them.
An unprecedentedly high number of migrants continue their journey to Greece; IOM estimates that from September 11th to September 13th approximately 20,000 migrants have been registered in the Greek islands. The Head of IOM Mission in Greece, Daniel Esdras said that "Reality has overrun our predictions; needs are exceeding the available capacity. The desperation of these people leads them to take fatal risks, and the organized crime of smugglers is expanding every day. There is no time left.’’
Last week, a gradually improvement of the situation in Lesvos was noticed due to the fast track registration procedures and the approach of three ships which removed approximately 8,000 migrants from the island. Nonetheless, it is estimated that more than 12,500 migrants crossed into Lesvos Island during this past weekend, resulting a high congestion in the area.
On the island of Kos where there is no provision for the accommodation of the newly arrived migrants and the coverage of their basic needs, IOM Greece continues with the provision of humanitarian assistance to the people in need.
IOM’s Kelly Namia in Athens reminds all media that arrival and registration figures in Greece are very fluid. The Hellenic Police in Lesvos told IOM staff that due to the fact that the registrations are taking place under so called fast-track procedures many are handwritten and may not be completely accurate. IOM staffers say they were advised that, because of the handwritten procedures, Hellenic Police requested more time to compile daily arrivals.
IOM Ankara reported this week that the Turkish Coast Guard shared its numbers for total rescues, apprehensions and deaths it has recorded from migrants along its coasts since the beginning of 2014.
A total of 14,961 irregular migrants were recorded in Turkish coastal operations in all of last year, in 574 incidents. Through Sunday night (13 September 2015), the same report shows 53,229 irregular migrants engaged in 1,399 incidents this year.
Deaths in 2014 were 69 migrants; the number for 2015 now has topped 71 migrants. So far in September Turkish data shows one death per day—13 through Sunday—making this month among the deadliest of the current emergency. Fifteen migrants died in Turkish waters in all of August.
IOM Ankara’s Emrah Guler cited the assistance of the organization’s national toll-free “157 Helpline,” which was established in 2005 to assist in the rescue of victims of trafficking in human beings.
The Helpline evolved to provide information on a non-emergency basis to individuals who may be at risk of being or becoming victims of trafficking. The expanded Helpline information services now include advice on visa applications and procedures for the safe return home for stranded migrants as well as migrants seeking rescue on the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas.
“Migrants are calling the 157 help line when they think that their boat will sink or sometimes some of them swimming to the coast and call 157 informing that their boat sank and some migrants can’t swim and need help,” explained IOM’s Emrah Guler in Ankara. “Then their request is forwarded to the Turkish Coast Guard so that they send their patrols or rescue boats to identify and rescue. Migrants generally know where they are or from where they attempted to cross the borders.”
One example came on 19 August, when a group of migrants called 157 requesting rescue, stating that they left from Turkey’s Çeşme province and were heading to Greece. In coordination with the Coast Guard 15 Afghans were rescued near Çeşme’s Karaabdullah district. The 157 Hotline team also informs the Hellenic Coast Guard whenever Turkish rescue operations fail to find the migrants at sea.
The Helpline is operational around-the-clock. Multilingual operators provide advice in Russian, English, Turkish and a number of other languages. Helpline operators are trained in counselling and in providing emergency assistance as well as soliciting sensitive information from the public concerning actual or suspected victims.
For the latest data on arrivals and fatalities in the Mediterranean, please visit Missing Migrants Project: http://missingmigrants.iom.int
For further information please contact IOM Greece. Daniel Esdras, Tel: +30 210 9912174,