At least 21 people have died in the eastern Aegean Sea after two boats carrying migrants and refugees from Turkey toward Greek islands sank overnight.
The first incident took place near the island of Kalymnos, when a large wooden boat capsized due to the windy weather conditions and sank. The IOM told IBTimes UK on 30 October that at least 14 people, including 9 children, lost their lives. 138 people were rescued. Greece's merchant marine ministry put the death toll at 18.
Another small boat overturned near Rhodes island, killing three people. The Greece coast guard rescued six refugees, but three more are feared missing.
The deaths occurred amid a surge of crossings to Greek islands involving migrants and refugees from Syria, Afghanistan and other countries. Seven people were killed on Thursday (29 October) after a wooden boat capsized off the island of Lesbos. The overcrowded fishing boat, carrying around 300 people, capsized overnight when the upper deck collapsed on the crowds below. According to some reports, a second boat accidentally crashed into the vessel causing it to sink.
Charity workers warned that the wave of refugees to Europe is far from over despite the upcoming winter weather. Over the summer, the Aegean Sea island of Lesbos, which lies less than six miles from the Turkish coast, became the main route for thousands of asylum-seekers from the Middle East and Africa hoping to reach safety in the European Union (EU). Unexpectedly, the arrivals have not scaled down in the past few weeks, despite the worsening weather, rough seas and upcoming winter conditions.
"We've made the assumption that the numbers of refugees would go down in winter, but that assumption has been proven wrong," Kirk Day, the International Rescue Committee's Greece team leader, told IBTimes UK. "Last week, we've seen the biggest day of arrivals with over 8,000 coming in one day on Greek islands. Despite the fact that the summer has been incredibly challenging, I believe that we're in the darkest days now."
The United Nations (UN) said on 20 October that over half-a-million refugees and migrants have arrived by sea in Greece this year. About 27,500 people remained in transit on Greek islands near Turkey, with many fearing that European borders will close again once they reach northern Europe.