A 17-year-old Iraqi asylum seeker was killed while on his way to Greece after suspected Turkish smugglers on board the yacht he was travelling on engaged in a shootout with Greek port police late on Saturday.
It is not yet clear whose bullet killed the teenager. The incident took place off the island of Symi (about 500km southeast of Athens). A yacht carrying about 70 migrants was intercepted by a Latvian patrol vessel deployed under the EU’s Poseidon Sea mission.
At that point, the yacht changed course and started heading back for turkey, ignoring calls to stop. When the Latvian vessel tried to approach, the yachts skipper even tried to ram the Latvian vessel, according to the EU border agency Frontex.
Eventually the Hellenic Coast Guard intervened and the yacht was stopped but when Greek officers boarded the vessel, a shootout ensued as three suspected Turkish people-smugglers resisted arrest.
The Maritime Ministry said in a statement that the smugglers snatched a gun from one of the officers and that is when shots were fired. The teenager’s body was transferred to a hospital in Symi where a doctor certified that he had “probably died of gunfire”.
The incident is the most serious violent exchange between smugglers and border officials, certainly in terms of its consequences.
In November last year an Italian vessel fired on smuggler vessels following a chase, while later in April, an Icelandic was fired upon by smugglers off Libya but decided not to return fire for fear of migrants getting hurt in the process.