In the wake of two shipwrecks that occurred off the Greek islands of Lesvos and Kithira on Wednesday night, the IRC warns that continued inaction by leaders to ensure safe routes to safety for refugees could lead to more lives lost as winter nears and weather conditions worsen.

On Lesvos, 18 bodies have been recovered, including 16 women,one man and a young boy, while a further 15-20 people are missing or presumed dead at a second site near Kithira. IRC teams in Lesvos are on standby to provide relief to survivors or the families of those lost at sea, including delivering mental health services and trauma support. 

Eftychia Georgiadi, IRC Greece Head of Programmes, said,

“It is a shameful tragedy that yet more lives have been claimed by the treacherous journey taken by those who cross the Mediterranean to flee violence or persecution and seek safety in Europe. This year, over 170 people are either missing or have lost their lives in the east Mediterranean sea alone, and this number could rise drastically as people continue to make the journey amid deteriorating winter weather that will increase the dangers involved.”

Niamh Nic Carthaigh, IRC EU Policy & Advocacy Director, said,

“In the last five years, the number of lives lost at sea among those attempting to cross the Mediterranean to Greece has increased, and the route is now thirteen times more dangerous than it was in 2015. Condolences and messages of solidarity are not enough, and we cannot normalise these incidents. The EU must no longer shirk its responsibilities to people seeking protection. Europe’s response to people fleeing Ukraine has demonstrated that it is capable of welcoming people with humanity, dignity and in a spirit of solidarity, when there is the political will to do so. The EU and its member states must urgently expand existing and create more safe, regular routes so that people are not forced to risk their lives on these deadly journeys.” 

Notes to Editors

The IRC began operating in Greece in 2015, when Europe was experiencing a peak in migration. What started as an emergency response on the island of Lesvos quickly expanded to Thessaloniki and then to camps on the mainland. Currently, the IRC operates in Lesvos and Athens, providing mental health services,, accommodation in apartments for unaccompanied boys and girls, as well as single mothers, and integration programming. The IRC also runs RefugeeInfo, an online platform providing reliable and accessible information in five languages, to refugees across the country.