More killed in new migrant tragedy

  • 14/09/2015

At least 34 people, among them babies and children, have drowned in another refugee tragedy off Greece.

The latest deaths off an island in the Aegean Sea came as Athens angrily defended its handling of the mounting refugee crisis in Europe and appealed for more help.

Four babies and 11 young children - six boys and five girls - were among those on the stricken wooden boat when it sank off the island of Farmakonisi, Athens News Agency reported on Sunday (local time).

Eight of the victims were found by coastguard frogmen in the hold of the boat.

A total of 34 people were found dead, while another 68 were plucked alive from the sea and a further 29 managed to swim to safety on a beach on the island, according to latest coastguard figures.

The coastguard was also still searching for four children missing after another boat capsized on Saturday off Samos, a Greek island just off the Turkish coast.

The International Organisation for Migration has said more than 430,000 migrants and refugees have crossed the Mediterranean to Europe so far in 2015, with 2748 dying or going missing en route.

Interim Prime Minister Vassiliki Thanou on Sunday branded criticism of Greece, which has been on the frontline of the surge of migrants trying to reach Europe, as "unacceptable".

"Greece is strictly applying European and international treaties without ignoring the humanity of the situation," she said on a visit to Lesbos, an island which has been struggling with the massive influx.

Greece's leftist Syriza party, bidding for re-election in next weekend's vote, called for external help in dealing with the crisis.

"We should mourn but also act," it said, describing the massive influx of refugees as a wider European and global problem.

"Our country is, because of its geographic position, a gateway and it needs support, funds and infrastructure in order to help these desperate people, as it must do."