Two traffickers arrested over deadly boat accident in Aegean

Two traffickers arrested over deadly boat accident in Aegean

BALIKESİR – Doğan News Agency
Two traffickers arrested over deadly boat accident in Aegean

DHA photo

Two foreign nationals have been arrested by Turkish police on human trafficking charges over the Jan. 5 capsizing of a migrant boat off the Aegean coastal town of Dikili that killed 31 migrants.

Turkish gendarmerie forces detained two foreign nationals, an Algerian and a Palestinian, in the northwestern province of Balıkesir late on Jan. 11 for arranging the journey of two boats bound for the Greek island of Lesbos that capsized off Dikili, a district in the Aegean province of İzmir. 

The Algerian and Palestinian human traffickers, 26 and 24 years old respectively, were arrested after they appeared in court following their detention, upon the testimonies of migrants rescued from the deadliest boat tragedy yet this year.

The arrests came a week after more than 30 migrants washed up on coasts of Dikili and Ayvalık, a district in Balıkesir, following a failed attempt to cross into Greece via the Aegean Sea.

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.

The flow of mostly Syrian refugees and migrants braving the seas to seek sanctuary in Europe dipped toward the end of last year with the advent of colder weather, but the total still reached 1 million last year, nearly five times more than in 2014. 

Increased policing on Turkey’s shores and colder weather conditions have not deterred refugees and migrants from the Middle East, Asia and Africa from embarking on the perilous journey in small, flimsy boats. 

Around 850,000 migrants and refugees crossed into Greece last year, paying smuggling gangs to ferry them over from Turkey in frail boats. Hundreds have lost their lives during the crossings.

The International Organization for Migration estimates that 3,771 migrants overall died while trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Europe last year. The final number for 2015, released on Jan. 5, was up from the 3,692 figure the agency released before Christmas.