A two-year-old boy is thought to have become the first person to die while seeking refuge in Europe this year.
The unnamed toddler of unknown nationality drowned when the dinghy he and more than 30 other people were on became shipwrecked upon jagged rocks on the remote Aegean island of Agathonisi, which has a population of only 100, on Saturday.
Local fishermen alerted the Greek coastguard and the survivors were rescued by the fast-rescue Responder boat of the Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) charity.
MOAS said 11 people were injured upon the sharp island rocks among the “wet, bleeding refugees”, while a three-month-old boy was suffering from hypothermia.
The AFP news agency said the toddler who died was two, and that his mother was among those who survived. AFP said 39 people survived the dinghy capsizing while MOAS said 35 people had been rescued.
Although the movement of refugees trying to reach the European Union from Turkey has slowed due to the winter weather, the high seas and and cold has not stopped people from making the five-hour crossing, MOAS said.
Its founder Christopher Catrambone, who set up MOAS with his wife Regina in 2013 after 400 people drowned off the Italian island of Lampedusa, said “nothing can prepare you for the horrific reality of what is going on”.
“Today we came face to face with one of the youngest victims of this ongoing refugee crisis. It is a tragic reminder of the thousands of people who have died trying to reach safety in miserable conditions,” he said.
“The light in all of this darkness is that there are so many individuals and organisations dedicating themselves to saving lives. As we have seen today, collaboration and cooperation is crucial to all of us being effective in our efforts.”
According to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), 3,771 refugees died trying to cross the Mediterranean to reach Europe in 2015.
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