14 mi­grants drown as boat sinks off Tur­key

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

At least 14 mi­grants, in­clud­ing seven chil­dren, drowned yes­ter­day when their flimsy boat sank off Tur­key’s Aegean coast while try­ing to reach Greece, the lat­est fa­tal­i­ties in Europe’s refugee cri­sis. The Turk­ish coast­guard re­cov­ered the bod­ies from the wooden boat which was head­ing from the western prov­ince of Canakkale to the Greek is­land of Lesbos, the Do­gan news agency said. “This morn­ing an­other 14 refugees died... Must there be an­other Ay­lan for the world to wake up. Hu­man­ity is watch­ing from the side­lines,” said Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan.

He was re­fer­ring to three-year-old Syr­ian refugee Ay­lan Kurdi, whose body was pic­tured washed up on a Turk­ish beach in Septem­ber in har­row­ing im­ages that shocked the world, pres­sur­ing Euro­pean lead­ers to step up their re­sponse to the cri­sis. Do­gan re­ported that 27 peo­ple were res­cued in the Aegean yes­ter­day, among them a preg­nant woman, and the sur­vivors were said to be in good con­di­tion.

Coast­guard work­ers backed by he­li­copters were con­tin­u­ing a search for those un­ac­counted for, Do­gan said, with­out spec­i­fy­ing how many might be miss­ing. “The boat prob­a­bly sank af­ter hit­ting rocks. It was se­verely dam­aged and ap­par­ently started to take in wa­ter but they de­cided to go ahead any­way,” Canakkale gov­er­nor Hamza Erkal told Ana­to­lia news agency. “They ap­par­ently turned back af­ter the boat took in more wa­ter but it sank be­fore reach­ing the shore.” There was no im­me­di­ate in­for­ma­tion on the na­tion­al­i­ties of those on board.

Main launch­ing point

The lat­est tragedy came as Euro­pean lead­ers were due to meet African coun­ter­parts in Malta to dis­cuss the mi­gra­tion cri­sis. There has been a sharp spike in the num­bers of mi­grants and refugees set­ting out from Tur­key for the Euro­pean Union in search of bet­ter lives. Tur­key has sur­passed North Africa as the main launch­ing point for mi­grants head­ing to Europe, and cur­rently hosts more than 2.2 mil­lion refugees from the war in neigh­bor­ing Syria.

An EU re­port on Tur­key re­leased on Tues­day was highly crit­i­cal about the state of the rule of law and free­dom of ex­pres­sion but praised its “hu­man­i­tar­ian sup­port” for the refugees and said the EU had to step up its co­op­er­a­tion with Ankara to tackle the cri­sis. Last month, the EU an­nounced a refugee co­op­er­a­tion deal with Tur­key in­clud­ing a pos­si­ble three bil­lion eu­ros ($3.3 bil­lion) in aid. The deal in­cluded push­ing for­ward Tur­key’s longstalled EU ac­ces­sion process, which has inched for­ward since start­ing in 2005, and speed­ing up visa lib­er­al­iza­tion for Turks trav­el­ling to the EU, but was played down by Er­do­gan shortly af­ter its an­nounce­ment.

The UN refugee agency UNHCR said last week up to 600,000 mi­grants and refugees were ex­pected to cross from Tur­key to Greece and on­wards over the next four months de­spite the on­set of win­ter. More than 650,000 mi­grants and refugees, mostly from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, have reached the Greek is­lands so far in 2015 us­ing the east­ern Mediter­ranean route, the In­ter­na­tional Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Mi­gra­tion (IOM) said on Tues­day. Of those, 512 peo­ple died. —AFP

SHARM EL-SHEIKH: A Rus­sian flight leaves the air­port in Egypt’s Red Sea re­sort of Sharm El-Sheikh. —AFP

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