At Least Seven People Dead After Boat Collision Off the Coast of Lesvos – UN Refugee Agency

A group of refugees disembark from an inflatable boat after reaching the Greek island of Lesvos (30 September 2015). Photo: UNHCR/Achilleas Zavallis

LESVOS–(ENEWSPF)–16 October 2015 – Up to seven people have been killed – four of them children – in a collision between a smuggling boat and a Greek Coast Guard vessel off the coast of Lesvos, Greek authorities and the United Nations refugee agency said today.

The Coast Guard patrol vessel and fishing boat, which was carrying 38 people, occurred off the island’s north-western coastal town of Molyvos. Seven bodies were recovered, and 31 people were rescued.

Staff of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) also had to be evacuated from a crowded registration site after violence flared on Thursday as frustrations among refugees and migrants boiled over, according to the agency. Registration at the site was suspended and police had to be called in to try to quell the disturbances, which continued into the evening.

Thousands of refugees and migrants continue to arrive in Greece by sea from Turkey, which has increased pressure on the Government’s already overstretched reception and registration facilities on the island, UNHCR said.

“Both incidents, the maritime tragedy and the tensions on Lesvos, underscore once again the urgent need to rapidly establish proper reception facilities in Greece for receiving, assisting, registering and screening all new arrivals,” UNCHR spokesperson Adrian Edwards told a news conference in Geneva.

As many as 85 boats landed on the island of Lesvos on Wednesday, mainly along its northern shore where the channel separating Greece from Turkey is only about 10 kilometres. At present there are around 3,500-4,000 people on the north coast of the island.

“The surge in arrivals could be the result of a temporary improvement in the weather, a rush to beat the onset of winter, and a fear that European borders may soon close,” Mr. Edwards said.

He also said that the European Union had promised to relocate 120,000 people but so far only 19 had been relocated. He cautioned that, in 2016, arrivals via the Mediterranean would continue because the underlying causes of displacement were still in place.

In a visit to Greece earlier this week, UNHCR chief António Guterres said it was essential that the country receive support from the European Union for reception, registration and screening processes.

Mr. Guterres has also urged governments to put in place more systems so that people can come to Europe legally and not resort to smugglers and other irregular routes. Such legal routes include increased resettlement from countries of first asylum, family reunification, private sponsorship schemes, humanitarian visas and more flexible visa arrangements for students, workers and others

Source: www.un.org