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Greece recovers bodies of four migrants from sea floor

Source: Reuters - Fri, 7 Feb 2014 18:15 GMT
Author: Reuters
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ATHENS, Feb 7 (Reuters) - Greek divers recovered the bodies on Friday of four migrants who drowned while their boat was being towed by a coastguard vessel last month.

The bodies of two adults and two children were brought to the surface from the wreckage of their boat, 73 meters (240 ft) below the surface of the Aegean Sea, the coastguard said in a statement.

"There were also other bodies ... who could not be recovered," it said.

Two people were confirmed drowned and ten declared missing on Jan. 24, when the boat capsized.

Greek prosecutors launched an inquiry after the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR, human rights groups and political parties asked whether the coastguard itself had caused the accident by trying to tow the boat toward Turkish waters, as some of the survivors have said.

Migrant drownings are not uncommon in Greece, a gateway to the European Union, but the latest incident has drawn accusations that Greece breached EU law by trying to push the 28 migrants back to Turkey, where they had set to sea.

The coastguard says they were towing the boat towards Greek waters, not to Turkey.

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has made illegal immigration a priority for his government and for Greece's six-month stint as holder of the rotating EU presidency. Greece has long complained of being overwhelmed by migrants and its economic crisis has boosted anti-immigrant sentiment.

Criticism of the government's handling grew after television footage showed survivors arriving at the port of Piraeus near Athens, recounting in tears how they watched their children drown as coastguard officials looked on. (Reporting by Harry Papachristou; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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