IFRC appalled by migrant deaths as hypothermia claims three lives in Greece

Published: 21 January 2016

Athens, 21 January 2016: A five-year-old child and two women have died from hypothermia in Lesvos after a grueling journey across the Aegean Sea.

Head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in Greece, Karen Bjornestad, said: “Hundreds of people arrived on Wednesday soaking wet, bitterly cold and shaking after braving rough seas and freezing weather on route from Turkey.

“Medics fought to treat three of them for severe hypothermia, including a five-year-old child, but they died on arrival in Greece.”

More than 18 boats, each carrying up to 45 migrants, washed up on the island’s beaches on Wednesday.  The Hellenic Red Cross rescue and first aid teams were on hand to help get people to safety and treat other hypothermia cases, managing to save another woman’s life and stabilize her.

The IFRC condemned the deaths and urged politicians to prioritize establishing safe and legal routes to asylum for people fleeing violence and persecution.

Bjornestad said: “These needless deaths are shameful – we must establish safer ways for people to escape conflict, persecution and poverty. Death should not be the result of a basic human desire to live in safety and find a future.”

The Hellenic Red Cross has provided support to at least 188,000 people since 2015 across Kos, Samos, Chios and Lesvos through the distribution of emergency supplies, first aid activities and psychosocial support for people suffering from trauma.

For more information/interviews, contact IFRC communications delegate Caroline Haga in Greece on +30 694 985 1330 | +36 704 306 500 or email caroline.haga@ifrc.org

Notes to editors: The Red Cross Red Crescent has been on the frontline of the migration crisis since it began. An estimated 74,000 volunteers have been deployed across 28 countries, reaching 600,000 people. The IFRC has launched emergency appeals totaling more than 70 million Swiss francs to provide life-sustaining services and assistance to meet the needs of vulnerable people and families across Europe.

The IFRC’s ‘Protect humanity - Stop indifference’ campaign calls on the public, partners and decision-makers to sign on to a call for the universal protection of migrants, without discrimination, at every stage of their journey.