Wednesday, February 21

Up To 40 Migrants Drown After Boat Sinks



Up to 40 migrants, including at least five children, have drowned in the Aegean Sea after their boat capsized off the Turkish coast.

The vessel, which was en route to the Greek island of Lesbos, sank near the resort of Ayvacik – and Turkish officials have said they expect the death toll to rise, as more bodies are believed to be inside the boat.

According to the Anadolu agency, 75 passengers survived and were rescued – including people from Syria, Afghanistan and Myanmar. Some of the survivors have been hospitalised with symptoms of hypothermia, and divers are continuing to search the area.

It is believed the boat hit rocks soon after leaving Canakkale, which lies about five miles north of Lesbos. Distressing pictures from the scene showed the bodies of women and children washed up on a beach.

The Dogan news agency reports that police have arrested a Turkish man who is suspected of being the smuggler who organised the fatal journey.

It is unclear how many people were on board, but initial estimates from the coast guard suggest there were 120 passengers. Locals said they woke up to the sound of screams after the boat capsized.

It follows a similar tragedy on Thursday, which saw 25 migrants drown off the Greek island of Samos. Ten of them were children. So far this year, 218 people have been killed as they attempted to make the perilous crossing from Turkey to Greece.

The route is one of the main corridors for migrants and refugees hoping to enter the European Union. An estimated 2.5 million refugees have fled Syria and taken refuge in Turkey – but some intend to travel onwards.

Last November, Ankara agreed to tackle smuggling networks and attempt to slow the flow of refugees heading into Europe. At present 2,000 new asylum seekers are believed to be entering the Balkan states on a daily basis.

In exchange, the EU pledged €3bn (£2.3bn) to help improve conditions for migrants in Turkey.