Refugee crisis: Unnamed toddler becomes first casualty of 2016 after drowning off the Greek coast

The two-year-old boy died when the overcrowded dinghy he was travelling in capsized off the island of Agathonisi

Caroline Mortimer
Sunday 03 January 2016 11:57
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Refugees being rescued on the Greek island of Lesbos in photo dated 26 November 2015
Refugees being rescued on the Greek island of Lesbos in photo dated 26 November 2015

A two-year-old boy has become the first known refugee casuality of 2016 after drowning off the coast of the Greek island of Agathonisi.

The unnamed boy was one of 40 passengers on a crowded dinghy which capsized in the Aegean sea after attempting the perilous crossing from Turkey early on Saturday morning.

The 39 other passengers - including the child’s mother - were rescued by the charity Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) and taken to the port of Pythagorio on nearby Samos, according to AFP.

Ten survivors were taken to a Greek hospital to be treated for hypothermia.

The toddler’s death is the latest in a grim series of statistics as Europe faces a continuation of the crisis which has gripped it since the summer as desperate refugees flee war-torn Iraq and Syria by any means necessary.

More than a million refugees from North Africa and the Middle East attempted to cross into Europe via Turkey, Greece and Italy in 2015 - with more than 3,600 people being killed while attempting the sea crossing.

Many more risk further danger on the land as they attempt to travel through eastern Europe - with many countries such as Hungary shutting their borders.

The death of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi in September 2015 and the picture showing him lying face down on a Turkish beach prompted an international outcry and an outpouring of sympathy towards the refugees with German Chancellor Angela Merkel announcing the country would accept over a million refugees in the next year.

Although Ms Merkel has scaled back her decision to stand by the refugees she used her New Year message to plead with the increasingly skeptical German public to accept them calling them “an opportunity for tomorrow”.

This is in contrast to the growing hostility across Europe - including in Germany where there have been a spate of arson attacks on refugee centres - as countries such as Hungary build fences to keep refugees out.

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