Body of young child recovered off Greek island

January 9, 2022 GMT

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — The body of a young child was recovered from the Aegean Sea on Saturday, two weeks after two deadly accidents in the area involving boats loaded with migrants, Greek Coast Guard officials said.

The body was found off the island of Naxos, and authorities estimated late Saturday that the victim, who was 85 centimeters (33.5 inches) tall, was about three years old.

The body will be taken to the city of Piraeus, a port in the capital Athens, for forensic examination.

On Thursday, four other bodies belonging to a man, a woman and two pre-teen girls were found, three off Naxos and one off the nearby island of Paros.

On Dec. 22, 12 people, all believed to be from Iraq, were rescued from an inflatable dinghy off Folegandros in the southern Cyclades, 180 kilometers (112 miles) southeast of Athens. The bodies of three unidentified men were recovered from the sea.

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Survivors of that incident said that at least 17 others were missing.

Two days later, 41 people were rescued after a sailboat carrying about 80 migrants overturned northwest of Paros.

As Greece has tightened patrols off its eastern Aegean islands, close to the Turkish coastline, smugglers based in Turkey have increasingly packed yachts with migrants and refugees and sent them toward Italy.

In 2021, more than 116,000 asylum-seekers crossed the Mediterranean to reach EU countries, the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR said. The agency said 55% traveled illegally to Italy, 35% to Spain and 7% to Greece, with the remainder heading to Malta and Cyprus.