Five-year-old Syrian girl drowned in migrant boat sinking off Greece

Migrants from Aleppo, war-torn Syria, walking at the beach after arriving on the Greek island of Lesbos on Sept 11, 2015.
Migrants from Aleppo, war-torn Syria, walking at the beach after arriving on the Greek island of Lesbos on Sept 11, 2015.PHOTO: REUTERS

ATHENS (AFP) - A five-year-old Syrian girl was found dead on Saturday (Sept 19) and several other refugees were believed to be missing when their boat sank in an attempted crossing from Turkey to Greece, the state ANA agency reported.

The Greek coastguard said it had rescued 11 people and was looking for other survivors.

"We were told there were 26 people in the boat in total," a coastguard spokesman said.

The survivors include another child and a man who were flown to hospital with hypothermia, she added.

The accident occurred east of the island of Lesbos, one of the Greek islands that have seen a heavy influx of refugees from war-torn Syria this year.

Many have perished trying to cross the Aegean Sea in search of a better future in Europe.

Earlier this month, harrowing pictures of three-year-old Syrian refugee Aylan Kurdi, whose body was found washed up on a Turkish beach after the boat carrying his family to the Greek island of Kos sank, caused an outpouring of emotion around the world, pressuring European leaders to step up their response to the refugee crisis.

The body of another four-year-old Syrian girl washed up on a beach in western Turkey on Friday.

Migrants have in recent days turned to Turkey's land borders with Greece and Bulgaria to avoid the sea voyage that has cost over 2,600 people their lives in the Mediterranean this year.

Another boat was spotted by a helicopter from EU border agency Frontex sailing east of the Peloponnese peninsula with around 200 people of unknown nationality on board, the coastguard said.

A coastguard helicopter airlifted to the city of Kalamata a man on board who required hospitalisation, it said.

Greece has seen over 300,000 refugees and migrants enter the country this year, most of them passing through to other European countries.