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Friday 9 December 2016

Sea of shame washing over EU as more die - Tsipras

Theodore Figarez

Published 31/10/2015 | 02:30

The body of a baby girl, who was said to have been onboard a wooden boat carrying refugees and migrants from Turkey to Greece that sank in open sea on Wednesday, is laid on blankets at a beach on the Greek island of Lesbos. The death toll from drownings at sea has mounted recently as weather in the Aegean has taken a turn for the worse
The body of a baby girl, who was said to have been onboard a wooden boat carrying refugees and migrants from Turkey to Greece that sank in open sea on Wednesday, is laid on blankets at a beach on the Greek island of Lesbos. The death toll from drownings at sea has mounted recently as weather in the Aegean has taken a turn for the worse
German Chancellor Angela Merkel

Greece's prime minister has lashed out at European ­"ineptness" in handling the migration crisis after at least 26 more people drowned in new shipwrecks.

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As bodies of small children were once more strewn along Greek shores, Alexis ­Tsipras voiced sorrow at the new deaths, and lashed out at ­Europe's ­"inability to defend its ­(humanitarian) values" by ­providing a safe alternative to the dangerous sea ­journeys in frail boats provided by ­smuggling gangs.

"I want to express ... my endless grief at the dozens of deaths and the human tragedy playing out in our seas," he told parliament. "The waves of the Aegean are not just washing up dead refugees, dead children, but (also) the very civilisation of Europe."

He laid responsibility for the tragedy with western countries, whose military interventions in the Middle East "were not to introduce democracy ... but to serve financial interests".

"And now, those who sowed winds are reaping ­whirlwinds, but these mainly afflict reception countries," he added. "I feel ashamed of Europe's inability to effectively address this human drama, and of the level of debate ... where ­everyone tries to shift the blame on to someone else."

Rescued

Greece's Merchant Marine ­Ministry said 19 people were killed and 138 were rescued near the eastern Aegean Sea ­island of Kalymnos, as ­boatloads of Middle Eastern refugees and economic migrants try to reach the Greek islands in rough seas.

It was one of the worst ­accidents in Greek waters since the mass migrant flows started after the war in Syria, and ­another three died and six were rescued in a separate incident off the island of Rhodes.

The death toll in the Aegean over the past three days has now reached nearly 50.

Meanwhile, in Spain, ­rescuers found the bodies of four ­migrants and are searching for 35 missing from a boat that ran into trouble trying to reach Spain from Morocco.

In some of the ­hardest-hitting comments yet on a crisis resonating throughout Europe, Tsipras told parliament Greece didn't want a "single euro" for saving lives as thousands of ­refugees continued to arrive ­daily on its shores, and the EU remained at odds on how to deal with the influx.

Four coastguard ­patrol ­vessels, a ­helicopter and three fishing boats helped rescue the survivors off Kalymnos, and nobody was listed as missing, the ­Merchant Marine ­Ministry said. The ­accident occurred when the wooden boat sailing from Turkey took on water and sank in ­moderately strong winds.

At least three more people died when ­another boat sunk off the nearby island of ­Rhodes. Three people are still missing, while six were saved.

Meanwhile, authorities raised to 16 the number of deaths from another migrant ship disaster off the island of Lesbos on Wednesday. They said 274 people have been ­rescued and one remains missing.

Conditions

Lesbos has borne the brunt of the refugee crisis in Greece, with more than 300,000 people reaching the island this year on small boats from Turkey, police say. More than a third of that number has come in October, rushing to avoid the onset of harsh winter ­weather, and as conditions deteriorate in camps in countries ­neighbouring ­Syria.

In Spain, the Marine Rescue Service said 15 migrants were found alive on the boat in the Mediterranean Sea, south of the Spanish port of Malaga, and four bodies were recovered.

Meanwhile, Turkey's state-run agency said four ­children drowned and two others are missing after two boats carrying migrants from Turkey to the Greeks islands capsised in the Aegean.

In Munich yesterday, ­Germany's vice chancellor attacked what he described as irresponsible bickering in Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative bloc over the ­refugee crisis.

Bavaria's Christian Social Union, part of Merkel's Union bloc but often an awkward ally, has criticised Ms Merkel's approach for weeks. Leader Horst Seehofer has demanded moves by tomorrow to limit the migrant influx. Ms Merkel has argued there's no way to instantly stop the influx.

Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel, a centre-left Social Democrat, said the infighting "would appear bizarre in normal times".

He said: "In view of the great challenge for our country from the high immigration of refugees, the argument ... is now threatening the government's ability to act."

Irish Independent

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