Child drowns at sea off coast of Lesbos in first fatality after Turkey border opens

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A child died after being pulled from the seat when a boat capsized off the Greek island of Lesbos, officials said on Monday, the first reported fatality after the Turkish government opened its border last week to let migrants reach Europe.

At least 1,000 migrants have reached Greece’s Eastern Aegean islands since Sunday morning, Greek police say. More than 15,000 migrants have attempted to cross by land at the border, where guards from both sides have fired tear gas into crowds caught between the fences in no-man’s land.

Turkey, which is home to 3.7 million Syrian refugees and has another million on its doorstep from a new surge of fighting, said last week it would stop enforcing a 2016 agreement that had prevented migrants from reaching the EU.

Greek officials accused Turkey of orchestrating a coordinated effort to drive migrants across the frontier.

Read More: Greek authorities prevent over 15,000 migrants from crossing Turkey-Greece border – Where is the United Nations?

“This movement is guided and encouraged by Turkey,” government spokesman Stelios Petsas told reporters after a national security meeting in Athens. He called the surge of migrants at the border “an active, serious, severe and asymmetrical threat to the national security of the country”.

Turkey’s announcement last week threatens to reverse an agreement that halted Western Europe’s biggest wave of migration since World War Two, the 2015-2016 crisis when 4,000 people drowned in Aegean and more than a million reached Greece.

The Greek coast guard said the boat which capsized off Lesbos on Monday morning had been escorted there by a Turkish vessel. Forty-six people were rescued and two children taken to hospital, one of whom could not be revived.

Read More: ‘It’s a powder keg ready to explode’: Tensions on Lesvos between refugees and locals persist

Another dinghy with about 30 Afghans arrived on Lesbos early in the morning, a Reuters journalist reported from the island. Thirty-two others were rescued in the seas off Farmakonissi, a small island close to Turkey, the coast guard said.

“This is an invasion,” Development Minister Adonis Georgiadis told Skai TV on Monday.

Late on Sunday, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis tweeted that Greece was determined to protect its borders and warned migrants not to attempt to cross as security was increased to the maximum. He is expected to visit the border on Tuesday with Charles Michel, chairman of EU leadership summits.

Sourced by: Reuters

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