UNHCR, IOM: Latest shipwreck tragedies in Greek seas underscore the need for enhanced safe pathways

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) are deeply saddened by the latest shipwrecks off the Greek islands of Lesvos and Kithira that claimed at least 18 lives while some people may be missing.

At the boat incident off Lesvos, the Hellenic Coast Guard rescued 10 women, while tragically, the bodies of 16 women, one boy and one man were recovered. Another 18 people from the shipwreck were located today afternoon on the island of Lesvos by UNHCR and MSF teams, in coordination with the Greek authorities.

In a separate incident off Kithira island yesterday evening, 80 people were rescued from a boat reportedly carrying 95 people. The nationalities of the passengers have not been confirmed.

Weather conditions in both incidents were challenging, with strong winds and rough seas prevailing. IOM and UNHCR express their gratitude and appreciation to all those involved in the rescue operations amid very adverse conditions, as well as to the local people who generously provided food, clothes and hygiene items to the survivors on Kithira.  

“These latest tragedies are painful reminders that more needs to be done to prevent people fleeing persecution and war from entrusting their lives to unscrupulous smugglers. International and regional cooperation is needed to ensure people have access to asylum and safe pathways”, said Maria Clara Martin, UNHCR Representative in Greece.

UNHCR and IOM are in contact with the Greek authorities and stand ready to provide further support.

“Today we have witnessed another two tragedies in the Mediterranean. People desperate for safety and better lives are risking everything in fatal journeys”, said Gianluca Rocco, Chief of IOM Mission in Greece. “This reiterates the need to intensify international cooperation to save lives and improve rights-based pathways for safe and regular migration,” he added.

So far in 2022, there have been some 7,000 sea arrivals in Greece. Main nationalities include Palestinians, Afghans and Somalis. Before today’s tragedies and since the beginning of 2022, 237 people have been recorded dead or missing in their attempt to cross the Eastern Mediterranean route, according to IOM’s missing migrants project, while the total number of dead or missing in the Mediterranean sea for the same period of time is 1,522.

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