New migrant boat tragedy kills 44 near Turkish, Greek coasts

New migrant boat tragedy kills 44 near Turkish, Greek coasts

ATHENS - Agence France-Presse
New migrant boat tragedy kills 44 near Turkish, Greek coasts

DHA photo

Forty-four people drowned after three refugee boats sank on Jan. 22 off Greece, as German Chancellor Angela Merkel sought to press Turkey to play a bigger part in resolving Europe’s escalating migrant crisis.

Germany and Turkey have emerged as crucial players in the biggest migration crisis to rock Europe since World War II, and both Merkel and Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, who was on visit to Germany, sought to drive a hard bargain in Berlin where the two countries’ cabinets met. The outcome of Jan. 22 talks was not only important for Merkel, who faces intense pressure at home to impose a cap on Germany’s refugee intake, but it will also have resonance across Europe where public opinion is hardening against a record asylum seeker influx.

Despite wintry conditions, thousands of people fleeing war and misery are still embarking on the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean to seek a better life in Europe.

In a stark illustration of the high cost of the voyage, Greek and Turkish coastguards recovered the bodies of 44 migrants -- including 20 children -- whose boats capsized on their way to Greece, officials said on Jan. 22.

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 Sea has often resulted in injuries and deaths due to either the capsizing of migrant-carrying boats or abuse of migrants by human traffickers.

Greece has also become the main gateway for people fleeing war and poverty trying to reach the European Union. More than 800,000 entered Greece last year, mostly using unseaworthy boats to reach Greek islands.