Thousands of migrants saved amid fresh tragedy in Aegean
DHA photoAt least five migrants were found dead off Turkey’s western coast on Jan. 26 after their boat capsized as they were trying to reach the Greek coast.
Fishermen in the Didim district of Aydın province in Turkey’s Aegean region informed coast guards of the dead migrants upon noticing their bodies floating on the water. The Turkish Coast Guard removed the five bodies from the water and rescued one migrant, who was not reported to be in a life-threatening condition.
The rescued migrant said there were another 16 migrants on the boat.
Turkish coast guards have begun search and rescue operations to locate the other migrants.
Meanwhile, in the northwestern province of Balıkesir, 28 migrants and 12 human smugglers were caught during two different police operations in the coastal Ayvalık district on Jan. 26.
A motorboat and eight vehicles including two taxis owned by smugglers were seized during the operations by district police’s anti-smuggling and organized crime teams.
The group of smugglers was attempting to transport migrants to the Greek island of Lesbos through the Turkish island of Cunda off Ayvalık. The suspects, who are said to be from Istanbul, Şırnak, Balıkesir and Ayvalık, were sent to court, while 10 of them were arrested.
Since the beginning of 2016, some 24 smugglers have been arrested, according to local reports.
In a deal reached late 2015, the European Union decided to give 3 billion euros to Turkey tackle the Syrian refugee influx into the EU, in exchange for accelerated talks on Turkey’s EU accession.
Despite the deal and reports of tightened control from the Turkish authorities, migrants and refugees continue to risk the perilous sea route trying to reach the shores of Greece.
Tens of thousands of migrants have been rescued and the lifeless bodies of hundreds of others have been retrieved from the Aegean Sea over the past year.
Statistics from the Turkish Coast Guard Command revealed that 59,377 migrants were rescued and the dead bodies of 339 others were retrieved from the Aegean Sea in 2015 as thousands of migrants, particularly Syrians arriving fleeing their war-torn country, failed to cross to Greek islands as what they see as a first step to reach European counties. This number had been 2,205 three years ago, and the number of migrants rescued was five times that of 2014.
Traumatic images of Syrian toddler Aylan Kurdi, whose body washed up on a beach in the southwestern resort town of Bodrum in September 2015, brought the world’s attention to the daily tragedy taking place on Turkey’s western shores.