A refugee boat carrying Afghans and Syrians has sunk off the Greek island of Lesbos killing five people, including two children. The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) confirmed the death toll to IBTimes UK and added that 62 people were rescued by the Greek coastguard. There were no missing people reported. The plastic boat turned over and sank near the island, which has seen a surge in the arrivals of refugees in the past weeks.
The coastguard said more than 450 people were rescued between Tuesday morning and Wednesday morning in 13 separate incidents. The latest shipwreck happened as Greece carried out the first relocation of asylum seekers as part of a European Union plan to ease the burden on border nations inundated by the influx of refugees.
A total of six families from Syria and Iraq were being relocated from Athens to Luxembourg as part of the two-year scheme funded by the EU. Parents holding children posed for selfies with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn before boarding the flight.
More than 600,000 people have arrived in Greece so far this year, with most coming to Lesbos. The surge in numbers of refugees, mostly Syrians, Afghans, Iraqis and Palestinians fleeing war and destruction, to Greek islands is mainly due to fears that European borders will close once they reach northern Europe, according to Carlotta Sami, spokeswoman at UN refugee agency for southern Europe.
"They are rushing to leave Turkey for Greece, pushed by the worsening situation in their countries of origin and exploited by ruthless smugglers who are giving them discount if they are willing to cross with bad weather," she told IBTimes UK.