Tsipras hits out at EU as nearly 50 refugees drown in three days

Greek prime minister says Aegean waves ‘washing up the very civilisation of Europe’

A refugee prepares to hand over a toddler to a lifeguard as a half-sunken catamaran carrying about 150 refugees, most of them Syrians, arrives on the Greek island of Lesbos after crossing part of the Aegean sea from Turkey, on Friday. There were no casaulties amongst the refugees who were travelling on the catamaran. Photograph: Giorgos Moutafis/Reuters.

A refugee prepares to hand over a toddler to a lifeguard as a half-sunken catamaran carrying about 150 refugees, most of them Syrians, arrives on the Greek island of Lesbos after crossing part of the Aegean sea from Turkey, on Friday. There were no casaulties amongst the refugees who were travelling on the catamaran. Photograph: Giorgos Moutafis/Reuters.

 

Four infants and nine children were among those who lost their lives in Greek waters yesterday, as Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras condemned European Union “ineptness” in responding to the refugee crisis.

At least 22 people drowned, including 19 people in an accident off the island of Kalymnos. Some 138 people were rescued by authorities during the incident, the latest in a series of shipwrecks off Greece in recent days. Almost 50 people have drowned in the last three days in Greece, as migrants continue to journey by sea from Turkey to Greece, despite deteriorating maritime conditions.

Mr Tsipras told the Greek parliament he felt “ashamed” of Europe’s inability to deal with the crisis and a policy “where everyone tries to shift the blame on to someone else”.

“I want to express . . . my endless grief at the dozens of deaths and the human tragedy playing out in our seas,” he told parliament. “The waves of the Aegean are not just washing up dead refugees, dead children, but [also] the very civilisation of Europe. ”

He accused western countries of bearing responsibility for the situation in the Middle East that has triggered the migration crisis.

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In addition to the accident off Kalymnos, three people drowned off the island of Rhodes. Greece is experiencing the biggest influx of refugees of all countries in the EU, with 500,000 arriving in the first nine months of the year, according to the United Nations.

Médecins Sans Frontières said it was appalled at the tragedies that continued to happen between Turkey and the Greek islands, and was offering psychological as well as medical support to survivors.

Meanwhile, rescuers in southern Spain were searching for survivors after a boat carrying migrants broke up on its way from Morocco. Four bodies have been found.

International response

Peter Sutherland

More than 700,000 migrants have arrived so far this year to the EU seeking refuge.

Italian authorities confirmed yesterday they would send 100 refugees to France and Spain next week as part of the EU relocation plan agreed in September, following the transit of 86 Eritrean refugees to Sweden and Finland earlier this month.

There has been some criticism of the pace of implementation of the programme, which was agreed following bitter divisions between member states. Although a core group of central and east European countries reluctantly agreed to participate in the programme, they are strongly against any permanent EU relocation mechanism.

Tensions continued to deepen in Germany over the handling of the refugee crisis, with vice-chancellor Sigmar Gabriel warning the dispute among conservatives threatened to hamper the government’s ability to respond.

German chancellor Angela Merkel is due back in Berlin following a two-day trip to China.