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Toddler drowns while fleeing to Europe, the first refugee to die in 2016

A two-year old boy became the first refugee to drown while crossing the Aegean Sea in 2016, after a boat carrying dozens of migrants shipwrecked near the Greek coast. The Syrian boy was traveling with his mother.

The overcrowded rubber raft hit rocks off Greece's Agathonisi Island on Saturday, the coastguard said.

The body of the two-year-old Khalid was retrieved by the fishermen, while the remaining 39 passengers - including the child's mother - were rescued.

The activists from the Malta-based Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) deployed its fast-rescue Responder boat to help the Greek coast guard with the rescue effort.

"Nothing can prepare you for the

horrific reality

of what is going on," MOAS founder Christopher Catrambone said. "Today we came face-to-face with one of the youngest victims of this ongoing refugee crisis. It is a tragic reminder of the thousands of people who have died trying to reach safety in miserable conditions."

Infant treated in hospital

The authorities transported the migrants to the port of Pythagorio on Samos.

A 3-month old infant boy was also hospitalized for severe hypothermia, but the doctors managed to stabilize him. Nine other people were also treated in the hospital.

The migrants set off from Turkey on Saturday morning, sailing for several hours in heavy seas, according to MOAS.

Nearly

one million migrants

sailed to Europe from Turkey or North Africa in 2015, many of them seeking asylum in Germany or Sweden.

Some 3,770 migrants died during the sea voyage last year, making it the deadliest year on record.

The influx continues in 2016, though the numbers have been curbed by falling temperatures and choppy waters.

dj/bk (AFP, dpa)

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