Twenty-eight refugees drowned off a Greek island yesterday when their boat sank, the coastguard said, thought to be the largest recorded death toll from any single accident in Greek waters since the refugee crisis began.
“A wooden vessel carrying them overturned about three miles east of Farmakonisi,” a coastguard spokeswoman told Reuters.
The accident coincided with a plea from Greek caretaker prime minister Vasiliki Thanou for the EU to agree a comprehensive policy for dealing with the increasing numbers fleeing to the region.
Tens of thousands of mainly Syrian refugees have braved rough seas this year to make the short but precarious journey from the Turkish coast to Greece’s eastern islands, mainly in flimsy and overcrowded inflatable dinghies.
Details of the nationalities and ages of the victims of yesterday’s sinking off Farmakonisi, among the smallest of a chain of Greek islands less than 20km from the Turkish mainland, were not immediately available.
The coastguard said 68 people were rescued out of the water and another 30 survivors from the same boat were found on Farmakonisi.
Meanwhile, Austrian police said they rescued 42 people, including five women and eight children, from a refrigerated lorry on a road near the border with Germany.
Police in Upper Austria province said the migrants were found at a rest stop on the A8 motorway at Aistersheim by officers looking for traffickers’ vehicles. They were inside a Finnish-registered truck used to transport flowers.
Police said all were in good health and the suspected smugglers, two Iraqis, were arrested. Last month, 71 people were found dead in a lorry in eastern Austria. Police said they probably suffocated.
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