Refugee crisis: Baby boy drowns after dinghy trying to reach Greek islands starts to sink

Rescuers pulled the infant from the water during an operation to save refugees but he could not be revived

Lizzie Dearden
Friday 09 October 2015 08:54 BST
The baby boy was on an overloaded dinghy taking refugees from Turkey to Greek islands
The baby boy was on an overloaded dinghy taking refugees from Turkey to Greek islands (EPA)

A baby has drowned in the Aegean Sea after a dinghy loaded with more than 50 refugees started sinking as they tried to reach Greece.

The one-year-old boy was found unconscious in the sea off the coast of Lesbos and was pronounced dead in hospital.

The Hellenic Coast Guard said a patrol boat spotted the stricken vessel on Thursday night.

The overloaded dinghy was drifting without an engine and sinking into the water after the rear part burst, throwing several people overboard.

A man suffering from hypothermia being treated after arriving in Lesbos on a dingby on 8 October (AP)

“The patrol crew proceeded to take all of the migrants to safety, when officials took an unconscious infant on board and immediately provided first aid,” a Coast Guard spokesperson said.

“They were transferred directly to Mithymna port and a waiting ambulance took the baby to a hospital in Kalloni, where doctors pronounced him dead.

“The Mithymna port authority is conducting a preliminary investigation and an autopsy will be carried out.”

Save the Children has counted at least 15 refugee children who have drowned in the Aegean Sea in the five weeks since the death of Aylan Kurdi.

The three-year-old Syrian boy was washed up on a beach after his family attempted the crossing to Kos, which lies south of Lesbos, along the string of Greek islands facing the Turkish coast.

Hundreds of refugees have died in similar voyages since numbers spiked in the summer, with smugglers' routes to Europe shifting away from the central Mediterranean after a series of disasters that killed more than 1,200 people in just one month.

A wooden boat carrying around 100 refugees and migrants also ran aground on the small eastern Aegean island of Leros this morning.

The coast guard and private boats joined the rescue effort and were taking people to the shore.

At least 542 people have been rescued in 12 incidents in the last 24 hours of the coasts of Lesbos, Chios, Samos, Agathonissi and Farmakonissi.

The UK withdrew its last ships dedicated to search and rescue in the Aegean Sea earlier this week

Two Border Force vessels, HMC Protector and HMC Seeker, had been patrolling the waters between Turkey and Greek islands but are now returning to Britain.

A spokesperson for the Home Office said: “This does not mean our work is done. The UK continues to play a leading role in combating criminal gangs through the use of HMS Enterprise, saving tens of thousands of lives.

“We also continue to provide joint intelligence work with our European partners, as well as increasing support and protection for those who need it.”

Justin Forsyth, chief executive of Save the Children, said the charity was “extremely concerned” at the withdrawal reducing capacity Europe to save lives “at a time when rescue missions are most needed”.

“Usually we see a reduction of crossings and casualties as the weather turns colder but that is not happening this year,” Mr Forsyth added.

“We are facing the biggest refugee crisis since the Second World War, a defining moment in our generation, and must ensure that our response efforts are equal to the task. The priority must remain stopping people from drowning, not border control.”

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