At least 20 dead in new Aegean agony

At least 20 dead in new Aegean agony

ANKARA - Agence France-Presse
At least 20 dead in new Aegean agony

DHA photo

At least 20 migrants, including eleven children, drowned when their overloaded boat sank in the Aegean Sea early yesterday while heading for the Greek island of Lesbos.

The wooden boat capsized in high waves two miles off the Bademli coast in the Aegean, Doğan News Agency reported.

The Turkish coastguard was hunting for the missing and divers were rushed to the scene after a tip-off that more refugees could be stuck in the deck.

The U.N. refugee agency and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said this week more than one million migrants and refugees reached Europe this year, most of them by sea.

The vast majority of people - over 800,000 - landed in Greece, according to the figures.

Greek police said Dec. 23 that at least 13 people including seven children, drowned when their boat sank in the Aegean.  Turkey, which is currently playing host to at least 2.2 million Syrian refugees, is a major launch pad for migrants who are seeking better lives in the European Union member states.  Ankara reached an agreement with the EU to stem the flow of refugees heading to Europe, in return for financial assistance.  Turkish coastguard and police have stepped up their presence along the coasts where smugglers operate the refugee business.

Because of the winter conditions, there has been a decrease in the number of migrants who are seeking to travel to Europe by risky sea journeys.

Turkish media reported this week that human smugglers reduced per migrant trip to $500 from around $1,200 because of a reduced demand.

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.