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Several die as boat sinks off Greece’s Lesvos island, pregnant woman saved

24 April 2017

Lesvos, January 2016

At least 16 people drowned late last night when the boat they were on sank between Turkey and the Greek island of Lesvos, but two confirmed survivors were rescued, including a pregnant woman. Nine bodies from the boat were found in Greek waters and seven in Turkey.

"The number of people crossing the Aegean to Greece has dropped drastically over the past year, but this tragic incident shows that the dangers and the risk of losing one's life remains very real," said Philippe Leclerc, the Representative of UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, in Greece. He reiterated calls for credible legal avenues to safety for those in need of international protection.

These are believed to be the first confirmed deaths in Greek waters this year of people making irregular and dangerous crossings by sea between Turkey and the Greek islands.

The two survivors, both women, told UNHCR staff they were on a dinghy carrying 20-25 people when it capsized at around 10:00 last night.

So far, nine bodies have been recovered and brought to the port of Petra on Lesvos by the Hellenic Coast Guard. They include six women, two men and a child. In Turkey, seven bodies were confirmed recovered by the Turkish Coast Guard.

The Hellenic Coastguard and personnel from the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, Frontex, continue to search for other survivors. UNHCR protection staff on the ground are with the survivors providing care. The two women, one of them believed to be from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the other from Cameroon, have been taken to Mytilene Hospital.

Some 4,900 people have made the crossing from Turkey to Greece this year compared to 173,450 for the whole of 2016.

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