Record number of refugees feared drowned

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Refugees arriving on the Greek island of Kos; many cross from Turkey on unsuitable vessels. Photo: UNHCR/S. Baltagiannis

As Europe's migration crisis continues, aid agencies said Tuesday that record numbers of people are feared drowned trying to make the crossing from Turkey to Greece this month.

According to reports, an estimated 85 people have died since the start of September in the narrow stretch of Aegean Sea that separates both countries.

The development follows the European Union's failure on Monday to agree on how to help tens of thousands of people arriving on its shores – an impasse that's been met with strong criticism from the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR and partner agency the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Daniel Johnson has more.

A day after the European Union failed to reach consensus on taking in 120,000 people seeking shelter, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) warned that the political impasse risks increasing the human cost of the crisis.

And as national borders close within the 28-member bloc, people keep coming across the 10 kilometres of water separating Turkey from Greece.

UN partner agency the International Organization for Migration (IOM) meanwhile said that the number of victims who have died crossing this part of the Aegean Sea is approaching record levels, with at least 85 people feared drowned this month.

And in what is just the latest of many sea tragedies, 24 people are believed to have died early on Tuesday morning off the Turkish coast when their boat capsized.

IOM spokesperson Leonard Doyle said the agency had set up a telephone hotline for desperate passengers who got into trouble on unsuitable vessels:

"A duck pond for a small rubber dinghy is fine, maybe you can make the 10 kilometres…but anything with a bit of wind is incredibly dangerous especially when they're overcrowded and leaking during the short journey; that's why they're calling the hotline, because they're leaking, the boats are sinking."

UNHCR called the EU’s inability to reach consensus on helping a proposed 120,000 refugees a deep disappointment.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva

Duration: 1'14"


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