5 Syrian migrants trying to reach Greece drown off Turkish coast

5 Syrian migrants trying to reach Greece drown off Turkish coast

5 Syrian migrants trying to reach Greece drown off Turkish coast

Migrants leave aboard a boat to the Greek island of Kos on early August 18, 2015 off the shore of Bodrum, southwest Turkey. AFP Photo

Five Syrians have drowned while another 24 were rescued off the Turkish coast as they tried to reach Greek islands, underscoring the deadly risks of making even short crossings to Europe in overcrowded plastic dinghies, Anadolu Agency reported.

Early Aug. 18, the Turkish Coast Guard unloaded five body bags from a patrol boat as rescued migrants, one man with his head in his hands, sat on the wharf, Associated Press reported. The Turkish Coast Guard was able to rescue 21 people and three others were saved from drowning by divers. 

A wailing young boy and a man were put into ambulances as survivors looked on.

The number of migrants attempting perilous sea crossings to Europe continues to climb despite the risks.

On Aug. 18, 194 migrants were captured in western Edirne province while attempting to cross into Greece.

Meanwhile, more than 2,100 migrants were captured in the Aegean Sea by the Turkish Coast Guard in the past four days. A total of 2,159 migrants were captured in around 50 search and rescue operations between Aug. 14 and 17. 

The trip from Bodrum, a southern Turkish beach resort, to Greece is preferred by migrants, as it is far less risky than other water journeys to Europe for those seeking a better life or asylum status. At its closest point, the Greek island of Kos is only 4 kilometers away from Turkey - a trip that takes barely an hour in a sailboat, locals say.

But the migrants travel in the dead of night to avoid Turkish and Greek coast guard patrols, giant oil tankers and large tourist cruisers. Strapped into lifejackets, squeezed into flimsy, overcrowded inflatable dinghies, they pay around $1,200 each to smugglers for the crossing.

For many, the trip is terrifying. Smugglers often jam the tiny boats with three or four times their maximum capacity of four people. Many of the migrants - mostly from Syria, but also from Afghanistan, Iran and African nations - cannot swim.

Italian Interior Minister Angelino Alfano said on the weekend that as of Aug. 15, 103,000 migrants had been rescued on the sea and brought to Italy in operations coordinated by the Italian Coast Guard. Along with other migrants landing in Spain and Malta, that means more than 243,000 people have crossed so far this year, compared to 219,000 for all of 2014. Greece has reported 134,988 arrivals from Turkey this year.

The International Organization for Migration estimates that at least 2,300 people have died this year trying to cross to Europe.