Athens, Nov 8: Authorities have rescued several hundred migrants from the Aegean Sea off eastern Greek islands in relatively calm waters, also reporting the death of a toddler. The boy, aged 2-3 years, was found off the coast of Lesbos fully clothed, including boots, and wearing an orange life jacket, the Greek coast guard said in a statement yesterday.
A coast guard spokeswoman, speaking on customary condition of anonymity, told The Associated Press, that there were no reports of a missing child from today's migrant arrivals or rescues.
"Until we identify the boy, we cannot exclude anything," she said, leaving open the possibility that the child may have drowned before yesterday. Earlier, Greek authorities had reported that yesterday was the first time in 11 days that no migrant had been reported dead in the Aegean, largely because of favorable weather. Even with favorable seas, Greece's coast guard and European Union border agency Frontex rescued a total of 429 migrants in seven separate rescue operations, authorities said.
One of the boats was "in a difficult situation" while two others were "rudderless." As people flee conflict in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, European countries are struggling to cope with the heavy flow and hostility from anti-migrant groups. Many EU members have been reluctant to take in significant numbers of migrants. German Chancellor Angela Merkel underlined in her weekly video message the need for "a fairer distribution (of refugees) in Europe."
Germany has seen 758,000 asylum-seekers arrive between January and October this year and this has resulted in a political backlash for Merkel. The latest anti-immigrant rally, organized in Berlin by the Alternative for Germany party, drew 5,000 people shouting "Merkel Must Go!"