Some two dozen refugees have lost their lives in the few miles between Turkey and the Greek island of Lesbos. The tragedy comes just after hundreds were rescued in the same location.
More than twenty migrants died on Monday when two boats sank between the Turkish and Greek coasts. Both boats were headed for the island of Lesbos, only a few miles from Turkey's Edremit coastal district and the town of Dikili, from where they set sail.
The death toll ranged from 22 to 33 dead as both governments worked to determine the exact number of casualties. Several people were rescued by a fisherman and by the Turkish coast guard, which told the press it had deployed more boats and helicopters to search for around 13 passengers who remained unaccounted for.
The tragedy in the Aegean Sea comes as a renewed push by the Syrian government to take the city of Aleppo has made tens of thousands of new refugees. Due to its proximity to Syria's neighbor Turkey and its status as an EU member, Greece has become a major hotspot for Europe's refugee crisis. Between the beginning of January 2016 and February 6 alone, Greece saw over 68,000 people reach its shores from Turkey.
Athens has scrambled to create new refugee processing centers at Lesbos, Chios, Samos, and Kos, funneling most of the refugees to these four stations in an attempt to alleviate the burden on smaller municipalities trying to coordinate a response. However, hundreds of residents living near the four new centers have led demonstrations against the creation of asylum seeker housing.
Over the weekend, the Greek military rescued 573 people from the sea. According to the coast guard, it was "very lucky" no one drowned. According to the International Organization for Migration, some 374 people have died so far this year attempting to reach Greece by boat.
es/jil (AP, dpa, Reuters)