Turkish police detain one over refugee boat disaster

Turkish police detain one over refugee boat disaster

Turkish police detain one over refugee boat disaster

AFP photo

Turkish police have detained one person suspected of organizing a smuggling operation that left 27 refugees dead on Feb. 8.

At least 27 foreign nationals, including 11 children, died after a boat carrying refugees sank in the Aegean Sea off Turkey’s western Balıkesir province.

The Turkish Coast Guard rescued three survivors, while another was rescued by a fishing boat off the Edremit district.

The suspect arrested on Feb. 9 was among the survivors of the sinking, local police said, adding that the hunt was on for three other suspects.

Turkey’s Aegean provinces - Çanakkale, Balıkesir, İzmir, Muğla and Aydın - are prime spots for refugees trying to reach the EU, with many Greek islands lying within sight of the Turkish coast.        

Over the past year, hundreds of thousands have made short but perilous journeys in a bid to reach northern and western Europe in search for a better life. Of the more than 1.1 million migrants who arrived in the EU last year, more than 850,000 arrived by sea to Greece from Turkey, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM). Over the course of the year, 805 people died in the Aegean.

Through the first six weeks of 2016 more than 76,000 people arrived by sea in Europe, according  to the IOM. The daily average of nearly 2,000 arrivals is nearly 10 times the daily average of a year ago.

Through Feb. 8, the IOM has recorded 409 fatalities on Mediterranean routes: 319 of the dead or missing were on the Eastern Mediterranean route connecting Turkey to Greece and 90 were on the Central Mediterranean route between North Africa and Italy.