Police in southwestern Turkey arrested six suspected human smugglers three days after a boat carrying illegal migrants sank. A nine-month-old baby is still missing after the accident where 15 people including 14 illegal migrants were rescued from the sinking boat off the coast of Bodrum.
The suspects were captured in a hotel where they were hiding yesterday in the town, which remains a hot spot for illegal migration to nearby Greek islands. Police found a stash of money in possession of suspects, believed to be taken from migrants. The suspects were remanded in custody on charges of manslaughter with deliberate negligence and human smuggling.
Migrants were Syrian nationals who were stranded when the fuel ran out in rubber boat they were on. Eyewitnesses claimed a brawl ensued when migrants argued with smugglers and it was during this commotion the nine-month-old girl Hilya Ali fell into the sea and disappeared.
Turkey has become a hub for migrants seeking to illegally cross into Europe in recent years. The Greek islands near Turkey's Aegean shores are a favorite destination for migrants heading to Europe. However, journeys aboard unsafe, overcrowded boats often steered by inexperienced migrants turn out deadly. The country boosted patrols at sea and land but still struggles to stop the influx of migrants. Human smugglers play a key role in aggravating the number of desperate migrants. Migrant smuggling has been a profitable business as the conflict in Turkey's southern neighbor Syria worsened, and smugglers continue operating, although in a much limited capacity thanks to security operations. They charge fees as high as $2,000 to take migrants to Europe from Turkey.
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