NEWS

Eight immigrants drown off Lesvos

The government on Tuesday insisted on greater support from the European Union and Turkey in efforts to curb a relentless influx of undocumented migrants after eight would-be immigrants - five minors and three women - drowned off Lesvos in the eastern Aegean when their smuggling boat foundered. Coast guard officials on the island were alerted to the incident by a fisherman in the early hours of Tuesday and immediately dispatched two vessels and a Super Puma rescue helicopter to the area. They managed to rescue 10 people, including the suspected smuggler, but also recovered the bodies of five children and three women. According to coast guard officials, choppy waters had swept the boat against a rocky outcrop and the migrants had been forced to swim to shore. The 45-year-old Turk detained as the group's suspected smuggler is believed to be a murder convict recently released from a Turkish prison. The surviving migrants had no documents but claimed to be from Afghanistan. Later the same day, a coast guard vessel rescued another 45 would-be migrants from an islet near the island of Anafi, in the southeastern Aegean. According to defense officials, Turkish authorities sent a radar warning to a Super Puma helicopter dispatched to the rescue operation. Commenting on recent developments in the Aegean later on Tuesday, Citizens' Protection Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis said Greece needed greater EU support to avert such tragedies in the future. «Every day, Greek authorities have to handle the security of 300-400 people seeking a safe refuge in Greece,» he said. «We lack sufficient infrastructure, funds and cross-border cooperation,» he added. His deputy, Spyros Vougias, was more explicit in his criticism of Turkey. «We need a solution to the problems Turkey causes by tolerating the actions of human traffickers,» he said. «There must be an end to this slave trade.»

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