Six reasons for why migrant boats keep sinking off Turkey, Greece
At least 12 migrants believed to be Syrians drowned as two boats sank after leaving southwest Turkey for the Greek island of Kos, Turkish security forces patrolled the shores of Muğla, finding the bodies of several refugees, including a child, who drowned and were washed ashore. Anadolu Agency photoAt least 12 migrants, believed to be Syrians, became the latest victims of a worsening refugee crisis when two boats sank after leaving southwestern Turkey for the Greek island of Kos on Sept. 2.
Photos showing the dead body of a child washing ashore infuriated the Turkish public and caused many to ask how come so many boats sink so frequently on a usually calm sea dotted with islands between two modern states.
The following overarching, intersecting rationales provide some explanation to these tragic incidents:
The Aegean is usually calm in summers, incomparable to the rough seas between Italy and Libya which constitute another deadly migrant route. However, occasional storms on the Aegean can still sink small boats even during short cruises. Most recently on June 23, six Syrians died when they attempted to get to the Greek island of Kos from the Turkish resort of Bodrum. The death toll could have been much higher if the Turkish coast guard did not rescue 60 migrants from the sea at dawn.
2) Human traffickers
After the sinking of a boat on the Aegean that killed 61 migrants in 2012, human traffickers were accused as possible culprits. It was then reported that smugglers could have “sacrificed” the migrants by sinking the ship to dodge the Turkish Coast Guard, before leaving them behind with dinghies.
3) Migrants themselves
Turkish media reported on Aug. 25 that 120 Syrians sank their own boats between Turkey’s Bodrum and Greece’s Kos when the Greek coast guard prevented them from landing on the beach. In sinking themselves, the migrants hoped to be collected from the sea by Greeks, not Turks, their rescue allowing them step on EU territory.
4) Is Greece sinking them?
A boat carrying the Greek flag approached a dinghy carrying over 50 migrants off Bozburun and popped it with a spear-like device on Aug. 14, according to Turkish fishermen who were eyewitnesses to the incident and spoke to the state-run Anadolu Agency. The fishermen rescued all the migrants and returned them to Turkey.
5) Defective boats, life vests
During the incidents mentioned in this article, migrants used various crafts, from dinghies that cost less than $100 to tour boats costing more than $30,000. The cheapest options can sink without any intervention even when the sea is calm. Turkish security forces routinely crack down on shops selling defective boats and life vests, made of backpack material and filled with sponge. (Click here for the full story)
6) Sluggish global response
Ultimately, migrant boats keep sinking on the Aegean because the rationale for them to embark on life-threatening journeys remains intact due to the sluggish response of the global community to the crises in their homelands.
In the first seven months of 2015, Turkish Coast Guard Command rescued 18,598 migrants in 585 operations in the Aegean Sea, arresting 39 human traffickers. They consists of a small fraction of 1.9 million Syrian refugees currently hosted by Turkey, which accused the European Union and other developed countries of leaving it alone with the crisis.
Turkish security sources and migrants play the same puss-in-the corner game each night and during dawn on the Aegean coasts as seen in the Anadolu Agency photos the Hürriyet Daily News published in May.
The decades-old dispute between Turkey and Greece over sovereignty and related rights in the area of the Aegean Sea complicates the question of which side should intervene to stop, rescue or detain migrants.
Similarly, the European Union has been haggling to adopt new conditions about asylum seekers and migrants, after the refugee crisis triggered by the Syrian civil war worsened.
With a solution to the ongoing tragedy still not found by the international community, boats keep sinking in the Aegean and humans keep dying.