11 migrants drown off Turkey’s west amid rise in boat crossings
REUTERS photoA total of 11 Syrian migrants, including children, have drowned off Turkey’s west coast after a fiber boat carrying at least 18 migrants capsized off the Aegean province of Aydın, while new data has shown an increase in the number of migrants crossing to Greek islands in an effort to reach European countries.
The bodies of the 11 migrants were found off Aydın’s resort town of Kuşadası at around 11 a.m. on Dec. 22 after a four-meter-long fiber boat bound for the Greek island of Samos capsized with Syrian migrants aboard.
The Turkish Coast Guard rescued seven other migrants involved in the incident from the sea and took them to the Kuşadası Public Hospital for treatment.
The number of migrant attempts to cross the Aegean Sea into Greek islands as a step to reach European countries has seen an increase, according to new data gathered by the state-run Anadolu Agency, with data showing there have been few migrants able to afford safer transportation methods.
Given that most of the migrants who risk their lives use dinghies to pass over the Aegean, few can afford safer modes of transport, according to the data.
The choice of making a bid to reach Europe on a small and potentially dangerous vehicle such as an inflatable dinghy versus a more reliable and safer vehicle such as a jet-ski or even a private yacht often comes down to the amount of cash migrants are able to give to human smugglers, the data indicated.
A large number of illegal migrants caught by the Turkish Coast Guard en route to Greece this year were traveling on 2,204 inflatable boats. This figure is far above the 392 boats from a year earlier, the mere 177 in 2013 and only 55 in 2012.
Typically, more than 60 people can travel on one nine-meter-long inflatable boat and pay up to $5,000 each for the illegal and in many cases deadly trip.
Those with more money prefer faster and safer vehicles, often pooling their money to use yachts or speed boats.
A significantly smaller portion of migrants caught this year were traveling on private yachts, while four jet-skis were also seized this year. The Turkish Coast Guard also captured 12 speedboats. Old fishing boats were also used in human smuggling between Turkey and Greece.
According to official figures, the Turkish Coast Guard has caught around 85,000 people so far this year. This figure includes many people who were rescued from boats which had either capsized or sunk completely.
In 2014, the number of migrants rescued by the Turkish Coast Guard and various other local institutions was 14,961 in 574 separate incidents. According to Prime Ministry figures released in November, more than 79,489 migrants in 2,133 incidents have been caught this year. Thousands of others have reportedly died.
The International Organization for Migration said more than 430,000 migrants and asylum seekers had crossed the Mediterranean Sea to Europe by September in 2015, with 2,748 dying or going missing en route, The Guardian reported.
More than 200 smuggling gangs have been targeted in Turkish security operations launched by the authorities over the last two years.
Geographically located between war-torn Syria and Iraq in the southeast and the EU member states of Bulgaria and Greece in the northwest, Turkey has become a transition point for migrants looking to illegally cross into the EU, fleeing the violence in Iraq and Syria and seeking a higher standard of living.
The wave of migration across the Aegean has often resulted in injuries and deaths due to either the capsizing of migrant-carrying boats or abuse of migrants by human traffickers.