By Joe Mellor, Deputy Editor
Shockingly at least 40 people have died as they drown near some Greek islands. Their boats sunk taking down 17 children, who were part of the group.
This has made January the deadliest on record for the death of refugees and migrants trying to make their way to Europe via boat.
The boats went down overnight in the Aegean sea, off two small island. The major death toll came from a wooden sailboat that sank off the island of Kalolymnos.
At that site 26 people were rescued but tragically 34 bodied were also recovered. The total number of missing is not known, but it is claimed that up to 100 people may have been on board.
Only hours earlier another wooden boat, with more than 50 passengers, sank to the north of Kalolymnos, at the island of Farmakonisi. In this case 40 people were able to make it land, but one woman and six children died.
It seems the turbulent winter weather has not halted the flow of migrant attempted to voyage to Europe. The refugees, predominately from Syria, are making the journey from Turkey on vessels that are not seaworthy.
The International Organisation for Migration brings the January total of deaths to at least 113, more than the previous two Januarys’ combined. The IOM said: “With nearly 37,000 migrants and refugees now having arrived in Italy and Greece by sea in 2016, that figure is roughly 10 times 2015’s total on this date. For Greece and the western Balkans, the increase is well over 20 times 2015’s total on this date.”
Nine hundred people have died in the Eastern Med since the start of 2015. Over 800,000 migrants entered Greece, using makeshift boats, from the Turkish coast. Deaths in perilous waters between Greece and Turkey are almost a daily occurrence.
John Kerry, the US secretary of state, said America will push for a 30 per cent increase in UN humanitarian funding to try and help alleviate the refugee crisis.
Manuel Valls, the French prime minster said Europe needed to take urgent action to control its external borders, “If Europe is not capable of protecting its own borders, it’s the very idea of Europe that will be questioned.”