EVROS, Greece — A child drowned on Monday when a dinghy carrying 48 migrants capsized while trying to reach the Greek island of Lesbos from the Turkish coast, the Greek coast guard said.
It was the first confirmed death since Turkey declared late last week that it was ending its policy of blocking migrants trying to cross into Europe, saying it could no longer take in so many people fleeing the Syrian civil war.
Over the weekend, Greece accused the Turkish government of becoming “a smuggler itself,” and deployed major military forces to the long land and sea borders it shares with Turkey. The Greek government also said it would suspend asylum applications for a month and deport anyone arriving illegally.
Neither of those measures is allowed under European Union law, but Athens said it would request special dispensation, and the European Commission said it was studying the announcement. International protocols on the protection of refugees, of which Greece is a signatory, also ban such policies, although there can be exceptions under extreme conditions.
Clashes have been raging between migrants and riot police officers along the land border between Turkey and Greece since late last week, as thousands of migrants flocked to the frontier, some bused in from Istanbul by Turkish officials. The Greek authorities used tear gas, batons, stun grenades and rubber bullets to repel the migrants.
The child’s death at sea and the clashes at the border quickly raised fears of a new chapter in the migrant crisis that roiled Europe in 2015, leaving a legacy of division and giving a boost to the far right on the Continent. There was no indication that the Greek authorities were at fault in the child’s drowning on Monday.
More than 3.6 million Syrian refugees have fled into Turkey since the Syrian civil war began nine years ago. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey has long called for European support to help them.
Greece bore the brunt of the 2015 crisis and hosts more than 100,000 migrants in appalling conditions, many on its northeastern Aegean Islands.
“The borders of Greece are the external borders of Europe,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis of Greece said Sunday. “We will protect them.”