A boat carrying up to 22 people on board has capsized near the island of Agathonissi, killing six children. The Greek migration minister has called on authorities to “implement safe procedures and safe routes.”
Greek authorities on Saturday said at least 16 migrants died when their boat capsized in the Aegean Sea, marking one of the deadliest disasters since the EU and Turkey struck a controversial deal to stem a wave of migration in 2016.
The boat went down near the Greek island of Agathonissi with up to 22 people on board, according to authorities. At least six children were also killed in the tragic incident.
“We can’t tolerate to lose children in the Aegean Sea … the solution is to protect people, to implement safe procedures and safe routes for migrants and refugees, to hit the human trafficking circuits,” said Greek Migration Minister Dimitris Vitsas.
The incident comes days after the EU unlocked €3 billion ($3.7 billion) for Turkey, the second payment under a deal that witnessed the number of migrants making the deadly crossing across the Aegean drop significantly.
Under the deal, the EU agreed to pay out billions of euros to Turkey to support Syrian refugees in the Anatolian country. It also allowed the EU to return failed asylum seekers to Turkey in exchange for the bloc taking in refugees on a one-for-one basis.
Before closing the so-called Balkan route in early 2016, a significant portion of migrants arriving in the bloc departed from Turkey’s Aegean coast.
The deal has been dubbed a success by European leaders. After negotiating the deal in 2016, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said it would “end the business model of people smugglers and contribute to securing the EU’s external borders.”
Frontex, the EU’s border management agency, recorded in 2017 the lowest number of detected illegal border crossings since the migration crisis peaked two years prior. In 2015, more than one million migrants entered the EU, many of them fleeing conflict and extreme poverty in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa.
But human rights groups have criticized the deal, saying it has been a “disaster” for migrants affected by it.
“It is disingenuous in the extreme that European leaders are touting the EU-Turkey deal as a success while closing their eyes to the unbearably high cost to those suffering the consequences,” said Amnesty International’s Gauri van Gulik in a statement last year.
ls/rc (AFP, Reuters, dpa)