82 refugees rescued after two days stranded at sea
ISTANBUL – Doğan News Agency
DHA PhotoEighty-two illegal refugees who human traffickers had promised to transport to Romania have been rescued after being marooned on a small boat 24 miles off the coast of Istanbul.
The group of 82, composed of Afghans, Syrians, and Iranians, included 15 children and 20 women, two of whom were pregnant. They had been left at sea after the captain promised to bring help to fix to a technical problem but never returned. The capacity of the 15-meter boat was 50 people, according to news reports.
After two days without food or water, the refugees started a fire on the ship to attract attention. A ship en route from the Black Sea to the Bosphorus Strait noticed the fire and informed coastguards, who reached the boat at around 10:30 on Sept. 4.
The refugees were taken to a pier at Çayırbaşı and were offered food, water and medical help.
The police are still searching for the captain who marooned the migrants.
The number of illegal migrants trying to reach countries neighboring Turkey is increasing rapidly, mainly due to the unrest on the country’s southern border. Migrants risking their lives while trying to enter Greece illegally also come from African and Asian countries.
The coast guards have captured 7,540 illegal migrants trying to reach Greece via the Aegean Sea this year, according to data provided by the İzmir Governor’s Office on Sept. 4.
The total number stood at 6,937 last year, a dramatic increase from just 2,531 in 2012.
The number of human traffickers arrested, however, stood at a mere 44. Traffickers usually prefer not to accompany migrants on board, according to remarks by locals and migrants.
Sailors also say that migrants typically board boats, usually inflatable, that are not sufficient for the hours of travel.
Guards recently intervened in three cases off Turkey’s western coasts. Twenty-nine Myanmar citizens were rescued off Aydın’s Didim, in addition to 11 Syrians and one Myanmar citizen off Balıkesir’s Ayvalık and 22 Syrians off Muğla’s Bodrum.
Amnesty International wrote in a June report that the policies of the European Union and its member states were putting at risk the lives and rights of refugees in many countries, including Turkey. Figures indicate that the Aegean Sea has turned into “sea of illegal migrants.”
“Almost half of those trying to enter the EU irregularly flee from conflict or persecution in countries like Syria, Afghanistan, Eritrea and Somalia. Refugees must be provided with more ways to enter the EU safely and legally so that they are not forced to embark on perilous journeys in the first place,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Program Director at Amnesty International, discussing the report.
A group of NGOs last month called for legislation that would formally define the status of temporary residents in the country, expressing concern over the latest attacks targeting Syrian refugees in several Turkish cities. The groups stressed that Syrians only enjoy limited rights and cannot officially apply for asylum in Turkey due to geographic restrictions.
According to official figures, over 1.2 million Syrian refugees have fled to Turkey since the start of the civil war, and nearly one million live in urban areas outside camps.