20 December 2012
Lesvos lies close to the coast of Turkey and continues to be a route to “freedom” in the EU used by refugees from conflict, persecution and poverty. The waters between Lesvos and Turkey are not always as warm and inviting as they are during the holiday season.
On Friday 14 December a man was pulled from the water 1.3 nautical miles off the northeast coast of Lesvos. He reported that he had been one of 28 Afghan refugees on board a boat that had left the Turkish coast in the early hours of that morning attempting to cross to Lesvos. Sea conditions had caused the boat to sink. He reported that he had been in the water for 5 hours. He was initially reported as 20 years old this was later changed to 16.
A search and rescue mission was launched by the Hellenic Coast Guard assisted by private boats and teams on land. There was much confusion over the number of people involved, by Sunday it had been agreed that in addition to the refugees, there were 2 Turkish men.
Over the next 3 days, 21 bodies of men were recovered from the sea and the shore near Thermi. Seven people remain unaccounted for.
Despite this tragedy, refugees continue to attempt the crossing. On 19 December a group of 20 children, 8 women and 20 men were arrested in Mytilene for illegally entering Greece.