Toddler becomes first refugee to drown in 2016

Child dies and 39 people are rescued after rubber dinghy which set off from Turkey hits rocks off Greek islands.

Migrants and refugees
The EU has been trying to discourage refugees from making the journey from Turkey [Santi Palacios/AP]

A two-year-old boy has become the first known refugee in 2016 to drown trying to reach Europe after the dinghy he was travelling on crashed into rocks, Greek coastguard says.

The other 39 passengers on board were rescued on Sunday after fishermen alerted coastguard, but at least 10 were taken to hospital to be treated for hypothermia after the boat got into trouble near the island of Agathonisi.

The rubber vessel set off from Turkey in the early morning in windy weather, AFP news agency reported.

2015: The year of the desperate journey

The charity Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS), which helps save people at sea, deployed its fast-rescue Responder boat to help bring the stranded passengers to safety in a joint operation with the Hellenic coastguard.

The toddler’s body was pulled out of the water by fishermen, according to the coastguard.

The DPA news agency said the boy’s name was Khalid.

There was no information about the nationalities of those rescued.

In another refugee-related development, the Turkish coastguard rescued 57 people who were stranded on a tiny island in the Aegean Sea after attempting to reach Greece.

The state-run Anadolu news agency says helicopters evacuated 12 people including three sick children from the islet near the Turkish coastal town of Dikili in Izmir province, the Associated Press news agency said on Sunday.

No casualties were reported after the incident.

The flow of refugees into Europe has continued into 2016 despite the tightening of borders by Balkan and eastern European states between Greece and northern Europe.

Many refugees make the sea journey between Turkey and Greece on overcrowded boats and rubber vessels, often left to their fate by people traffickers.

More than 3,800 refugees died trying to get into Europe in 2015.

Europe faces worsening refugee crisis in 2016

Source: News Agencies