A boat carrying migrants to Greece has sunk off the Turkish coast, taking more than 30 people to their deaths. It is the latest in a long list of such accidents, which have claimed thousands of lives over the past year.
The more than 30 people who drowned in the sinking ship included five children, the Turkish Dogan news agency reported on Saturday, adding that the Turkish coastguard was continuing search-and-rescue operations for an unknown number of people who remained missing.
The state-run Anadolu news agency said 75 passengers had been rescued, updating earlier figures. The sinking occurred off the coast of Ayvacik, a Turkish town situated across from the Greek Aegean island of Lesbos. Those saved were being treated in hospital for hypothermia after their exposure to the icy waters, according to Dogan.
The migrants were reported to come from Syria, Afghanistan and Myanmar
In 2015, some 500,000 people fleeing the civil war in Syria used Turkey as a launching pad to reach Greece, and thus the European Union, across the relatively narrow stretch of water between the Turkish coast and the nearest Greek islands. Refugees have been paying people smugglers thousands of dollars for the risky crossing in boats that are often overloaded, and accidents have been frequent.
Despite the winter conditions and rough seas, attempts to reach Greece have been continuing in recent months, though the pace has slowed somewhat.
Turkey, which is hosting at least 2.5 million refugees from Syria, has struck a deal with the EU under which it is to receive 3 billion euros ($3.2 billion) for stemming the flow of migrants to Europe. As part of the agreement, the EU has also pledged to renew talks with Ankara on joining the 28-nation bloc.
More than 1 million refugees and migrants from the Middle East and Africa arrived in the EU by land and sea last year, with some 3,600 dying or going missing en route.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) said this week that 45,361 migrants had arrived in Greece by sea so far this year. That represents a 31-fold increase as compared with all of January 2015.
Nine out of 10 of the migrants were from the war-torn nations of Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, the IOM said.
tj/sms (AFP, Reuters)