Two women and a 5-year-old girl died on Monday when a speedboat carrying Afghan refugees sank off Turkey’s Aegean Coast, which swarmed with thousands of migrants seeking a crossing to Europe last year. The latest casualties add to the more than 805 who perished in the Aegean in 2015
Afghan refugees this time, drowned in the cold waters of the Aegean, in pursuit of a better life in Europe. Two unidentified women and a 5-year-old girl drowned when a speedboat carrying 16 migrants sank due to bad weather off Turkey's Aegean coast, where at least 805 migrants, the majority Syrians fleeing the conflict-ridden country, drowned throughout 2015.
The latest drowned migrants were heading to the Greek island of Lesbos from Ayvacık, a seaside town in the province of Çanakkale, when their speedboat capsized and sank. Eight people were rescued from certain drowning in the rough sea by the Turkish Coast Guard, while five others managed to swim ashore after the boat sank some 200 meters off the coast. One of the survivors was a one-year-old girl. Migrants were hospitalized while search and rescue crews combed the area for potential survivors, due to conflicting reports on number of people aboard the speedboat.Two women and 5-year-old girl die as boat sinks off Turkey's Aegean coastTwo women and 5-year-old girl die as boat sinks off Turkey's Aegean coast
Ayvacık is among the favorite destinations of refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, Myanmar and other Asian countries due to its proximity to Greek islands, a stepping stone for Europe for migrants. Also on Monday, 96 Syrian migrants were discovered at the back of a truck in the town by Turkish gendarmerie troops as they were heading to the coast.
Turkey faces an intensified wave of migrants from its southern neighbor Syria,, as well as Afghanistan and other countries, over the last year. Despite the risk of death by drowning in the rough Aegean Sea while they travel aboard unsafe rafts in bad weather and mostly at night, migrants with little choice take the journey to reach Greece, closest point of entry to Europe from Turkey by sea.
Last year, nearly 850,000 people reached Greece via the Aegean Sea while Turkish Coast Guard intercepted more than 91,000 people, six times the number of people detected and stopped by Turkish authorities in 2014. It is feared the influx of migrants into Europe, largest since World War Two, might be worsened this year as the problems in their countries of origin remain unresolved. In March, Syria will mark the fifth year of a conflict which claimed lives of thousands and displaced millions forced to take shelter in neighboring countries.
As for Afghanistan, the country is in the grip of a campaign of violence by the Taliban, with the security situation further deteriorated after the withdrawal of foreign NATO troops. An economy in dire straits and unemployment add to woes of the Afghans who increasingly seek shelter in other countries. With the rise in number of migrants flocking to Turkish coast, number of deaths increase as well. In Ayvalık, another Aegean town, 31 people died when their boat sank on Jan.5.
Another issue concerning authorities is presence of smugglers who arrange the potentially fatal journeys for migrants. Smugglers contribute to the rise in the numbers of migrants as human smuggling via Aegean Sea proved lucrative in recent years. Authorities have detained 21 taxi drivers on Monday for transporting the 31 migrants died off the coast of Ayvalık. Five smugglers are also being wanted. Media reports said taxi drivers paid up to 200 euros per migrant whom they drove to the secluded parts of the coast where rubber boats await the smugglers.