Almost 40 dead after migrant boat sinks off Turkey
Almost 40 people drowned and 75 were rescued after a boat carrying migrants to Greece sank off Turkey’s western coast on Saturday (January 30), according to local officials and the Turkish Dogan news agency.
More than one million refugees and migrants arrived in the European Union last year and some 3,600 died or went missing, as they made the dangerous crossing.
The Turkish coast guard was continuing search and rescue efforts where the 17-metre boat carrying at least 120 people sank off the coast of Ayvacik, a town across from the Greek island of Lesbos, the Dogan news agency reported.
At least five of those who died were children, Dogan reported, while rescued migrants were hospitalised with hypothermia symptoms. It said the migrants were of Syrian, Afghan and Myanmar origin.
Reuters TV footage showed bodies of women and children washed up on a secluded beach as Turkish soldiers worked at the site, collecting evidence and recovering the dead.
One man was detained at the scene by police on suspicion of being a human trafficker and organising the doomed voyage.
He told Reuters he was on the boat but denied any wrongdoing.
“I didn’t do it. I swear I didn’t do it. I had six relatives on that boat. I had six relatives and I don’t even know whether they are dead or alive. I was also on that boat.” he said. “I swear I didn’t do anything. I came here to go Germany.”
Chancellor Angela Merkel, who opened Germany’s borders to Syrians fleeing civil war last summer, is under mounting pressure to halt the inflow.
Merkel told a meeting of members of her Christian Democratic Union party on Saturday that despite efforts to help refugees, it was important to stress that they had only been given permission for a limited stay.
Under pressure from the European Commission about delays, Greece expects to have four of five “hot spot” centres for processing migrants operational in about two weeks, its migration minister said in a newspaper interview published on Saturday.
Neighbouring Turkey is hosting 2.5 million Syrian refugees. In November it struck a deal with the EU pledging to help stem the flow of migrants to Europe in return for 3 billion euros ($3.3 billion) in financial aid and renewed talks on joining the 28-nation bloc.
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