The United Nations refugee agency today called on countries worldwide to do more to protect migrants trying to reach their destinations by river or sea after 16 people drowned this week while attempting to cross a river on the Turkish-Greek border.
The migrants, most of whom were Somali, died on Tuesday, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported today from Athens. Eleven bodies were recovered on the Greek side of the Evros River and five were found on the Turkish side.
UNHCR said it was the second time in a month that migrants had drowned crossing the Evros River, with three people dying in an incident at the end of May. The Evros River is an increasingly popular transit point for people trying to enter the European Union (EU).
Giorgos Tsarbopoulos, the head of UNHCR’s office in Greece, said this week’s incident “once again underlines the vulnerability of people who are forced to flee and are trying to reach safety.
“Sixteen people lost their lives because they felt they had no other option than to enter the EU through the clandestine services of smugglers,” he said. “We have every reason to believe that the majority had a legitimate need to seek international protection in the EU. This tragic incident highlights the need for States to protect people at sea and crossing rivers, regardless of their motivation for doing so.”
UNHCR is also calling on governments to assess refugee applications from people from southern and central Somalia in the broadest possible way and to extend complementary forms of international protection when refugee status is not granted to someone.