The Coast Guard has rescued 208 migrants of various nationalities in the Aegean Sea as the boat they were in was about to sink on Wednesday off the coast of Didim, a town in the western province of Aydın.
Migrants, including women and children, were traveling to a Greek island when their boat started taking on water. On an anonymous tip, Coast Guard crews aboard a vessel rushed to help the migrants who were taken to the coast.
The rescue operation came one day after the bodies of 36 migrants washed onto the coast of Ayvalık, a Turkish town in the northern part of the Aegean Sea. The disaster was the latest to hit thousands of migrants who attempt to cross the dangerous seas to reach the nearby Greek islands off the Turkish coast. Search and rescue crews combed the sea yesterday looking for bodies while only 12 survivors were found in the sea. Migrants were heading to the Greek island of Lesbos. The Turkish media has quoted the accounts of survivors who reported that the Greek Coast Guard forced migrants in boats to turn back as they reached the shore despite the bad weather, when their boat sank en route back to Turkish shore.
The Turkish coast, especially the shores of provinces likes Çanakkale, İzmir, Muğla, Balıkesir and Aydın, provide a launchpad for refugees seeking shelter in Europe, due to its proximity to the Greek islands - the main gateway to the continent from Turkey by sea. According to the latest figures, the Coast Guard intercepted more than 91,000 migrants off the country's Aegean and Mediterranean coasts as they headed to the Greek islands last year -six-times the number of people detected and stopped by the Coast Guard in 2014. Coast Guard figures reported by the Turkish media reveal that 279 people died en route to the Greek islands when their boats sank in 2015.