Sunday 19 November 2017

At least 13 dead as ferry hits boat full of migrants

Local workers collect the bodies of migrants on the shore after 13 died in a collision between a boat carrying refugees and a ferry off the Turkish coast near Ayvacik, Canakkale
Local workers collect the bodies of migrants on the shore after 13 died in a collision between a boat carrying refugees and a ferry off the Turkish coast near Ayvacik, Canakkale
A policeman lifts a migrant's child as a crowd desperately tries to board a train heading for Hungary from Tovarnik station in Croatia

Alex Kuli Athens

Disasters at sea claimed the lives of dozens of migrants yesterday, with at least 13 killed after their boat collided with a ferry off the Turkish coast.

Another 24 people were missing last night after their boat sank off the island of Lesbos.

Coast guard officials said nearly three dozen people were rescued in the two incidents, which followed another sinking near Lesbos on Saturday, in which a five-year-old girl drowned. Two bodies were found in Greek waters, but authorities aren't yet sure which shipwreck killed them.

Hungary's decision to shut its border with Serbia last Tuesday set off a chain reaction in Croatia and Slovenia that has forced people fleeing violence in their homelands to rush from one European border to the next as they desperately try to find their way north before the rules change again.

Thousands are on the move all over southeastern Europe as authorities struggle to respond. About 15,000 migrants crossed into Austria from Hungary and Croatia over the weekend.

Hungary erected yet another steel barrier, now at the Beremend border post with Croatia, complete with a giant steel door to control the flow of migrants. The gate slowed the flow. But people just kept coming.

In the Austrian border village of Nickelsdorf, people arrived by foot after completing a half-an-hour walk from the Hungarian town of Hegyeshalom. From there, buses and trains take them to emergency shelters in Vienna and other parts of Austria.

The asylum seekers lined up, waiting for buses to relocate them across the country. Austrian soldiers stood alongside. Local officials struggled to find them places to stay, since many camps across Austria are already overcrowded.

Mahat, a lab technician from Damascus, was one of the thousands waiting to get onto the buses.

"We came here only to get a new life," said Mahat, who didn't want to give his last name fearing repercussions from the Syrian government.

The 47-year-old said he had been trekking through Croatia with another 5,000 people before he eventually made his way to Nickelsdorf. He said he didn't care where in Europe he would end up as long as he could live in peace and find a job.

Mahat said he was originally living and working with his family in the United Arab Emirates until his father died in Syria three years ago.

"I came to Syria to put my father in the ground. Then the government took my passport and they cut it. So three years I was suffering inside," he said. "When I got the chance I just ran away and came here."

Conditions along the borders worsened, as days of intense heat gave way to rain and plummeting temperatures. Along the border in the Croatian town of Tovarnik, volunteers handed out tents and warm clothes

"Unfortunately we sleep here on the ground without anything. It was very cold," Muhammad Dakiri, a Syrian migrant, said. "Suddenly the weather has turned to cold and raining. We couldn't sleep well because in an hour or half an hour we wake up because we're feeling cold."

Hungary's erection of razor-wire fences is severely straining its ties with neighbouring countries, who feel the problem of the huge flow of migrants is being unfairly pushed onto them. After completing a fence along the border with Serbia, Hungary is now building fences along its borders with Croatia and Romania.

Irish Independent

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