Three illegal immigrants, a woman and two men, drowned on Monday after their boat capsized due to a storm off the Turkish coast in the northern Aegean Sea.
Seventy others aboard the small boat, which departed from Ayvacık, a district of the province of Çanakkale, were rescued by Turkish Coast Guard.
Migrants, including Syrian and Afghan nationals, were traveling to the Greek island of Lesbos when the boat capsized.
Meanwhile, it was reported that five migrants were missing off the coast of Lesbos on Monday after their dinghy capsized near the island. The Greek Coast Guard said six people were rescued and the bodies of two men were recovered after the dinghy capsized while another migrant managed to swim to Lesbos. The boat was carrying some 15 people according to rescued migrants.
Lesbos is one of the islands popular among illegal immigrants who use Greece as a gateway to European countries due to proximity of the Greek islands to the Turkish coast, their main destination of departure as it neighbors Syria. Ongoing conflict in Syria displaced millions and while some take shelter in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, others prefer sneaking into Europe in pursuit of a better life. Their journey often proves fatal as boats sink due to overcrowding and bad weather.
In July alone, 50,000 migrants landed on the Greek islands, mostly Syrians departing from Turkey. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), 76 migrants died between January and August en route to Greece, though this number is only an estimate and more migrants are feared dead as it is not known exactly how many people board the boats because of the illegal nature of the activity.
The Turkish Coast Guard reported that nearly 26,000 illegal immigrants were intercepted in 756 operations between January and July. That is almost 50 times higher than the 546 intercepted in 2011, while nearly 2,000 illegal immigrants were intercepted in the first week of August.
The latest figures available from the Turkish Coast Guard showed 1,919 migrants were intercepted in the Aegean Sea between Aug. 18 and Aug. 21 in 65 operations.