3 migrant girls missing as boat sinks off Greece

Migrants sit at a naval base after being rescued by the Libyan coast guard in Tripoli, on Sunday. (Reuters)
Updated 04 February 2019

3 migrant girls missing as boat sinks off Greece

  • The World Health Organization has urged Europe to guarantee migrants better access to health care

THESSALONIKI, Greece: Greek police say four migrants, including three girls, are believed missing since an inflatable boat they used to cross a river from Turkey into Greece was punctured by a tree branch.
A search was underway on Sunday for the suspected migrants.
Twelve people overall were in a dinghy that sank on Saturday. Police found eight Iraqi migrants — five adults, two boys and a girl — on a rock outcropping in the middle of the Evros River, which divides Greece and Turkey.
On questioning, police were told that a tree branch had punctured the migrants’ inflatable boat and that four of the original 12 passengers were missing. Eight of them managed to swim to safety and alerted the authorities.
A police search has recovered the boat with the migrants’ belongings, but there have been no signs of the missing. The father of the three girls is among the survivors, as are two of their siblings, a girl and a boy.
The Evros River has seen increased migrant traffic since Greek and EU naval patrols intensified in the Aegean in 2016.
Migration Minister Dimitris Vitsas in October said numbers had increased dramatically, from more than 3,000 in 2016 to 5,500 in 2017 and some 12,000 up to that point last year.
Migration is among the issues to be discussed during a visit to Turkey next week by Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.
Libyan coast
On Sunday, three migrants died and about 15 went missing off the Libyan coast, the Italian navy said after staging a rescue operation in the Mediterranean.
The navy intervened and a helicopter rescued three people suffering from hypothermia who were flown to the southern Italian island of Lampedusa, Adm. Fabio Agostini said.
This was after Italian air force pilots “spotted a dinghy in distress carrying about 20 people,” he told Italian television in an interview tweeted by the navy.
A Red Crescent spokesman meanwhile said 16 bodies had been found on the beaches of the Libyan city of Sirte between Jan. 2 and 15.
According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), 83 people have died so far this year trying to cross the Mediterranean.
It said the number of migrants and refugees landing on European shores had almost doubled in the first 16 days of this year to 4,216 against 2,365 over the same period in 2018.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has urged Europe to guarantee migrants better access to health care.
“The most important is the access to health services. To improve their health, it is important to fill the gap for access to basic care,” Santino Severoni, the head of the WHO’s migration and health program, told AFP.
In WHO’s Europe region, which covers 53 countries, migrants represent almost 10 percent of the population, or 90.7 million of 920 million inhabitants.
But the proportion of migrants varies widely from country to country, accounting for 45 percent of Malta’s population to just 2 percent in Albania.
Depending on the country and migrant status, they may enjoy full access to the health care system or none at all.
In 15 European countries, such as Austria, Turkey and Britain, asylum seekers have access to the same care as the local population, whereas in Germany and Hungary they are only entitled to emergency care.
In mid-November, a fishing vessel stolen from the harbor was intercepted with migrants aboard off the southern English coast.
A second stolen vessel was stopped with 16 migrants aboard on Dec. 23 just after making it out to sea from Boulogne harbor.
Britain and France have agreed to boost cooperation to try to stop the increase in numbers, which began in October, the Britain’s Home Office said Sunday.

Related


Russian court sentences 11 for Saint Petersburg bombing

Updated 14 min 32 sec ago

Russian court sentences 11 for Saint Petersburg bombing

  • All 10 people had denied the charges, and said they were tortured
  • The defendants were accused of acting as accomplices, by providing Djalilov with explosives and false documents

SAINT PETERSBURG: A Russian court on Tuesday sentenced 11 people to terms including life in prison after finding them guilty of a deadly bomb attack on the Saint Petersburg metro in 2017.
Abror Azimov, a 29-year-old from Kyrgyzstan, was sentenced by a military court in Russia’s second biggest city to life in prison for organizing and participating in a terrorist group.
Ten other people who are also from Central Asia were sentenced to between 19 and 28 years in prison.
All had denied the charges, and said they were tortured.
Shokhista Karimova, 48, pounded the glass of the courtroom cage and cried “let me go” after she was handed a 20-year term.
The bomb blast in April 2017 killed 15 people in the Saint Petersburg metro and wounded dozens more.
The alleged perpetrator, Akbarjon Djalilov, a 22-year-old from Kyrgyzstan, died in the attack.
Ten of the defendants were accused of acting as accomplices, notably by providing Djalilov with explosives and false documents.
The charges ranged from organizing a terrorist group and perpetrating an “act of terror” to weapons trafficking and making explosive devices.
Critics of the case say the defendants’ connection to the attack was not proven and some claimed they were framed by Russia’s FSB security service.
The suspects had been arrested in different Russian cities and detained in Moscow before being transferred to Saint Petersburg for the trial.
The prosecution said the defendants formed two “terrorist cells” in Moscow and Saint Petersburg and helped Djalilov by wiring him money and providing the explosives.
Defense lawyers and prison monitors have pointed to numerous irregularities in the case however and claim that evidence was planted.
One defendant claimed he was kidnapped from a hospital in Kyrgyzstan, while another said last month that they had been framed by the FSB after it “missed the terrorist.”
The bombing was claimed by an obscure group, the Imam Shamil Battalion, which experts say is linked to Al-Qaeda.