Child drowns at sea off Greece in first fatality after Turkey opens border

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Lesbos, Greece (Reuters) – A young Syrian boy died on Monday after being pulled from the sea when a boat capsized off the Greek island of Lesbos, Greek officials said, the first reported fatality since Turkey opened its border last week to let migrants reach Europe.

Separately, two Turkish security sources told Reuters a Syrian migrant had died from injuries on Monday after Greek security forces intervened to prevent migrants crossing from Turkey into Greece, but Athens branded the claim “fake news.”

More than 10,000 migrants, mostly from Syria, other Middle Eastern states and Afghanistan, have reached Turkey’s land borders with EU states Greece and Bulgaria since Ankara said last Thursday it would stop keeping them on its territory.

Farther south, at least 1,000 migrants have reached Greece’s eastern Aegean Islands since Sunday morning, Greek police said.

The surge, which has led to Greek and Turkish police firing tear gas into crowds caught in the no-man’s land between the two borders, has revived memories of the 2015-16 refugee crisis, when more than a million people arrived in Europe from Turkey.

“We have children four days without food,” one man shouted from behind a wall of barbed wire near the Kastanies border post as Greek riot police stood ready to repel any breaches of the frontier. Nearby soldiers unrolled more coils of barbed wire.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ office said he had discussed the border situation with U.S. President Donald Trump who, it said, had “recognised the right of Greece to enforce the law on its borders.”

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, who keeps warm ties with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, flew to Ankara on Monday to meet him. Bulgaria has seen no significant migrant inflows.

Borissov said he had tried to arrange a meeting between Turkey, Greece and Bulgaria but Erdogan was unwilling to sit at the same table with Mitsotakis. Erdogan said that Greek soldiers had killed two migrants and wounded a third one. Greek government officials denied it.

“No shots have been fired by Greek border forces against any individuals attempting to enter the country illegally,” government spokesman Stelios Petsas tweeted.

The boat that capsized off Lesbos had been escorted there by a Turkish vessel, the Greek coast guard said, underlining the escalating tensions between Ankara and Athens. The dead boy was aged about six, they said, but provided no other details.

More boats arrived at Greece’s islands on Monday.

About 4,000 people are believed to have drowned in the Aegean during the 2015-16 crisis trying to reach Europe, while some 42,000 migrants are still living in severely overcrowded camps on the Greek islands.