Refugee deaths spur criticism of Europe’s ‘ineptness’

Greek PM “ashamed over Europe’s inability” to tackle crisis after 22 people, including 11 children, drown in Aegean Sea.

Greece’s prime minister has strongly criticised European “ineptness” in handling the refugee crisis after the deaths of 22 more people off the coast of his country.

Eleven children were among those who drowned after two boats carrying refugees from Turkey to Greece sank in the Aegean Sea overnight, Greek port authorities told Al Jazeera on Friday.

One of the vessels went down near the island of Rhodes, the other near the island of Kalymous.

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At least 144 people were rescued from the water.

Alexis Tsipras, the Greek prime minister, voiced sorrow at the new deaths, and decried Europe’s “inability to defend its values” by providing a safe alternative to the dangerous sea journeys in frail boats provided by smuggling gangs.

“The waves of the Aegean are not just washing up dead refugees, dead children, but [also] the very civilization of Europe,” he told parliament.

‘Blame game’

Tsipras placed blame for the tragedy on Western countries, whose military interventions in the Middle East “were not to introduce democracy … but to serve financial interests”.

“And now, those who sowed winds are reaping whirlwinds, but these mainly afflict reception countries,” he said.

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“I feel ashamed of Europe’s inability to effectively address this human drama, and of the level of debate … where everyone tries to shift the blame onto someone else,” Tsipras said.

The number of people reaching Greek waters has surged in the last week, with average daily arrivals reaching 7,000-8,000 people.

Greece authorities are struggling to cope as temporary camps are filled up, with long waiting times for refugees waiting to register and continue their journeys to other European countries.

Greece is the main point of entry for people fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa, after an alternative sea route from Libya to Italy became too dangerous.

Well over 500,000 – mainly Syrians and Afghans – have arrived so far this year from the nearby Turkish coast.

Back in Slovenia

Lesbos has borne the brunt of the crisis, with more than 300,000 people reaching the island this year on small boats from Turkey, police say.

More than a third of that number has come in October alone, rushing to avoid the onset of harsh winter weather, and as conditions in camps in countries neighbouring Syria deteriorate.

Meanwhile, hundreds of refugees, many holding children in their arms, have pushed through metal barriers and a police cordon to force their way into Austria from Slovenia.

Several people were seen collapsing amid the melee on Friday near the Slovenian refugee camp in Sentilj on the border with Austria.

The backlog of some 4,000 of people fleeing wars and poverty in the Middle East, Asia and Africa has been formed at the border as Austrian authorities struggled to process thousands arriving daily from Slovenia.

Hundreds of refugees on Thursday also pushed their way into Austria after waiting for hours to cross.

Nearly 105,000 people have entered Slovenia in two weeks.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies