At least 22 people — including families trapped in a flooded cabin — drowned when a yacht and a dinghy crammed with migrants trying to slip into Greece capsized yesterday in the eastern Aegean Sea, authorities said.
Rescue teams led a search for up to seven more people missing in what was one of the deadliest migrant boat accidents in Greek waters in recent years and the third fatal one this year. Many on board were from war-torn or unstable countries in the Middle East and Africa.
The vessels overturned before dawn off the island of Samos, a favorite destination for migrant-smuggling gangs because it’s close to the Turkish coast. The Greek coast guard said it was not immediately clear what caused the overloaded craft to capsize.
Photos showed a dead woman clasping a dead child in her arms inside the yacht, as the vessel was hoisted upright on land with a crane.
The United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, said it was “deeply saddened” by the Samos deaths, and it appealed to European governments to seek “legal migration alternatives” for people fleeing war zones.
Greece’s merchant marine minister, Miltiadis Varvitsiotis, said he was “devastated,” adding that the government would press other European Union members to draw up a joint plan to better fight migrant smugglers.