Mi­grants from Tur­key flood into Greece; scuf­fles on boat

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL - BY MIKE CORDER AND SU­SAN FRAZER

Mi­grants on a Turk­ish beach scuf­fled over places on one in­flat­able dinghy and fran­ti­cally bailed out another to keep it from sink­ing dur­ing a dra­matic night that high­lighted their des­per­a­tion to reach the Greek is­land of Kos — and the safety of Europe.

The scenes of hu­man traf­fick­ing, cap­tured early Satur­day by As­so­ci­ated Press jour­nal­ists on a moon­less night, came as Turk­ish author­i­ties re­ported that 2,791 mi­grants have been caught in the Aegean Sea in the past 5 days alone, most of them Syr­i­ans.

Over­all, more than 33,000 mi­grants have been caught or res­cued in the Aegean this year, ac­cord­ing to the gover­nor’s of­fice in Izmir.

Kos is only 4 kilo­me­ters (2.5 miles) from Tur­key at its clos­est point, its twin­kling lights at night an ir­re­sistible bea­con to those flee­ing war or poverty.

Ten­sions were high early Satur­day at Fener­burnu Beach near the Turk­ish tourist town of Bo­drum. Two mi­grants tried to clam­ber onto a small dinghy only to be forced off by an­gry fel­low pas­sen­gers, one of whom shouted: “You haven’t paid!” One pas­sen­ger was also up­set that the male in­trud­ers had touched the arm of a fe­male mi­grant wear­ing an Is­lamic head­scarf.

The two ejected mi­grants fled up the beach and into the bushes just as a Turk­ish mil­i­tary po­lice ve­hi­cle, its siren wail­ing, ap­proached.

Ear­lier, in the dark­ness well away from the shore, two mi­grant smug­gling boats ap­peared to be in­ter­cepted by another ves­sel and their pas­sen­gers taken into cus­tody. It was not im­me­di­ately clear if Greek author­i­ties were once again in­ter­cept­ing mi­grants at sea.

Later in the night, another in­flat­able dinghy set­ting off from the beach ap­peared close to sink­ing un­der the weight of its hu­man cargo, which in­cluded at least one of the men forced off the ear­lier ves­sel. Three women jumped out and ran away shout­ing “No, no, no!,” clearly ter­ri­fied at the prospect of mak­ing even the short cross­ing to Kos in the flimsy boat.

Their panic spread to other pas­sen­gers, leav­ing just four men to bail out the wa­ter us­ing only plas­tic pad­dles. Then, us­ing a tiny elec­tric mo­tor, they steered the boat to­ward the lights of Kos. As the dinghy gath­ered speed, three men who had ear­lier aban­doned ship waded through the warm wa­ter to clam­ber back on board.

Asked if they had any­thing to say as they faded into the night, one man replied: “May God help us.”

Issa Jae­fer, a Syr­ian wait­ing in Bo­drum to make the cross­ing to Kos, said the mi­grants are aware of the dan­gers.

“We were left to die in Syria,” he said ear­lier in the week. “It doesn’t mat­ter if we die on the rough sea. At the end, by God’s providence, we will reach the sta­bil­ity and se­cu­rity in Europe.”

AP

Two mi­grants look to­ward a gi­ant pas­sen­ger ferry while it ar­rives at the Greek hol­i­day is­land of Kos, to pro­vide tem­po­rary ac­com­mo­da­tion for some thou­sands of refugees sleep­ing rough af­ter cross­ing clan­des­tinely from Tur­key in flimsy boats, Greece, Fri­day, Aug. 14.

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