At least 11 migrants killed in new Aegean tragedy off Turkey

At least 11 migrants killed in new Aegean tragedy off Turkey

At least 11 migrants killed in new Aegean tragedy off Turkey

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Eleven migrants drowned on March 24 after a boat carrying 22 sank off the Kuşadası-Davutlar area of the Aegean province of Aydın, Doğan News Agency has reported. 

Eight migrants were rescued while efforts to rescue the other missing three were continuing.

A number of ambulances were also dispatched to the coast.

Video footage on Doğan News Agency’s network showed half a dozen bodies after they were recovered from the water and laid out near ambulances.

Turkish television channel NTV said the migrants had been traveling in a rubber boat.

The frequency of tragedies on the Aegean has diminished sharply since the implementation of a Turkey-European Union refugee deal in March 2016, but the agreement now hangs by a thread.

Turkey agreed in 2013 to take back migrants who traveled illegally to the EU in return for the promise of visa-free travel, as well as financial aid for those in its care and accelerated EU membership talks.

However, Ankara may cancel the agreement and is also re-evaluating a $6 billion refugee deal with the bloc, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said March 15. 

More feared dead off Libya 

Separately, around 250 African migrants are feared to have drowned in the Mediterranean after a charity’s rescue boat found five corpses and two partially submerged rubber dinghies off Libya, a spokeswoman said March 23.

Laura Lanuza of Spanish charity Proactiva Open Arms said its boat Golfo Azzuro had recovered the five dead bodies close to the dinghies, about 15 miles off the Libyan coast.

“We don’t think there can be any other explanation than that these dinghies would have been full of people,” she told AFP. “It seems clear that they sunk.”

She added that they would typically have been carrying 120-140 migrants each.

“In over a year we have never seen any of these dinghies that were anything other than packed,” she said.

Lanuza said the bodies recovered were African men with estimated ages of between 16 and 25.

They had drowned, apparently in the 24 hours prior to them being discovered shortly after dawn on March 23 in waters directly north of the Libyan port of Sabrata.

Despite rough winter seas, migrant departures from Libya on boats chartered by people traffickers have accelerated in recent months from already-record levels.

Over 5,000 people have been picked up by rescue boats since March 19, bringing the number brought to Italy since the start of 2017 to over 21,000, a rise of more than half compared to the same period in previous years.

Aid groups say the accelerating exodus is being driven by worsening living conditions for migrants in Libya and by fears the sea route to Europe could soon be closed to traffickers.

Prior to the latest fatal incident, the U.N. refugee agency had estimated that some 440 migrants had died trying to make the crossing from Libya to Italy since the start of 2017.

That figure, also sharply up on previous years, is based on a combination of bodies recovered and testimonies from the survivors of shipwrecks.