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Migrant boat sinks in Turkish waters leaving six children dead

A dinghy carrying Afghan migrants has sunk off Turkey's Aegean coast, killing six children. The UN refugee agency has also voiced concern for 12,000 Syrian refugees stranded at the border with Jordan.

Six children died and eight other people were rescued on Tuesday when a small boat carrying them across the sea from Turkey to Greece capsized in strong winds and high waves.

The Turkish coastguard responded to a distress signal sent at midnight on Monday. The coastguard found the bodies of six children, including a baby, near the town of Cesme in western Izmir province. The boat had been headed towards the Greek island of Chios.

Eight other migrants, wearing life jackets, were rescued.

Turkey has more than two million refugees from the Syrian conflict on its territory and is the main point of departure for migrants trying to reach Europe.

More than 886,000 migrants have arrived in Europe by sea so far this year, according to the latest UN figures.

UN refugee agency concerns

The UN refugee agency expressed concern on Tuesday for the situation of 12,000 refugees stranded at the Syria-Jordan border in deteriorating humanitarian conditions.

"The lives of refugees will be at risk in the coming months," Melissa Fleming, spokeswoman of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) told a news briefing in Geneva on Tuesday. "So today the UNHCR appeals to the government of Jordan to allow refugees stranded at the border to entry the country," she said.

The UNHCR praised Jordan's "tremendous contribution" by hosting about 630,000 refugees from Syria but pointed out that the Ayraq refugee camp in Jordan had available capacity.

US presidential campaign

At the press briefing, Fleming was asked to respond to US presidential candidate Donald Trump's calls for a "total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States."

She admitted concern about "the level of rhetoric" in the US election campaign in reference to a ban on Muslims or stopping resettlements of Syrian refugees. Fleming said it could jeopardize an important US resettlement program.

"What (Trump) was speaking of was an entire population but this also impacts the refugee programme," Fleming said. "Because our refugee programme is religion-blind. Our resettlement programme selects the people who are the most in need."

jm/jil (Reuters, AP, AFP)

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