UNHCR is extremely distressed at reports that a boat carrying refugees and migrants shipwrecked off Lesvos earlier today. Thirty-two persons have been brought to Mytilene port by the Greek Coast Guard. According to reports, of the 15 men, 16 women, and three children who were on the boat that capsized, the body of one woman has been recovered and another passenger, also a woman, remains missing at sea, as search and rescue efforts continue.
High winds have been reported off Lesvos for several days and sea conditions for small boats are challenging. The 32 men, women, and children have been taken to Mytilene’s COVID-19 quarantine area for new arrivals. UNHCR and humanitarian partners are on stand-by to support those who make perilous journeys to reach safety, and we hope the missing passenger will be found.
Despite rapidly falling winter temperatures and high winds, persons continue to seek safety in Greece. For people to stop risking their lives in the hands of smugglers, they need safe and regulated alternatives.
Meanwhile, on northern Lesvos, this morning 11 persons walked into the Megala Therma quarantine area, a tented accommodation site for new arrivals, where 20 asylum seekers were placed by Greek authorities on Tuesday afternoon, the two groups having become split-up after landing yesterday.
Over two days Lesvos has received more than 60 new arrivals. Currently there are some 9,400 refugees, asylum seekers and migrants on the island, considerably fewer than the population one year ago, which then stood at 18,933. Relocation activities continue as vulnerable persons are airlifted to other countries or transferred by ferry to the mainland to continue asylum processes.