Children among 39 killed as migrant boat hits rocks
Published 31/01/2016 | 02:30
Corpses could be seen strewn along a Turkish beach yesterday after a boat overloaded with migrants collided with rocks, drowning at least 39 people.
The accident occurred only a few hundred yards from the shore and claimed the lives of five children.
A boy was photographed lying dead on a stony beach. Orange life jackets and the tattered luggage and possessions of those on board lay nearby.
Some 75 survivors were rescued from a total of about 114 passengers crammed on to a vessel just 56ft in length.
The boat was heading for the Greek island of Lesbos, only five miles away, and the disaster seems to have taken place at the very beginning of the journey.
Spring and summer are traditionally when migrants strive to cross the Mediterranean, but recently fugitives have not waited for better weather and boats have set off from Turkey throughout the winter.
Including yesterday's tragedy, at least 250 people are known to have drowned between Turkey and Greece so far in January, according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).
The total for the whole of last year on the same routes was 805. If the death rate remains at this level, the number killed during all of 2015 will be exceeded by mid-April.
The stricken vessel made its way from the Turkish resort of Ayvacik. Saim Eskioglu, the local deputy governor, told Turkish CNN that the boat "hit rocks soon after it left the coast". He added that more corpses were probably still inside the wreck.
Most of those on board were thought to be Syrians. Others are understood to be from Afghanistan and Burma.
The Turkish coastguard sent three rescue boats supported by a helicopter and a team of divers to the scene.
A Turk was arrested on suspicion of being the people smuggler who organised the attempted crossing.
Survivors were taken to a local hospital for treatment for various conditions, including hypothermia.
Such incidents have become almost daily occurrences in the waters between Turkey and the Greek islands.
Another 26 were killed a day later in a shipwreck off the island of Samos after 65 passengers were crammed on board a vessel designed to carry a maximum of 30.
All were Kurds from northern Iraq, where terrorists from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant have overrun a large area of traditionally Kurdish territory.
The IOM said that "despite winter weather" and "strong winds", more than 52,000 migrants and refugees had arrived in the Greek islands since the beginning of January.
In previous years, the number of new arrivals has fallen sharply during the winter months.
But the story in 2016 has, so far, been very different. The number of people making the crossing in the teeth of winter is roughly equal to those who came during the summer.
Last July - when the sea was calm and conditions most favourable - about 55,000 people completed the journey from Turkey to Greece.
So far in January, about 2,000 arrivals have been recorded in the Greek islands every day - roughly equal to the total number who came during the entire month of January in 2014.
An IOM survey has found that 90pc of the migrants and refugees arriving in Greece are from Syria, Iraq or Afghanistan.
About 2.5 million Syrian refugees have arrived in Turkey. The country has agreed to take a series of steps to reduce the "push factors" that might impel people to embark on the dangerous journey to Europe, including the offer of work permits for any refugees who have been registered for at least six months.
So far, however, there is little sign of these measures reducing the outward flow of migrants.