Boat carrying 20 refugees capsizes off Turkey's Aegean coast, 11 dead

DAILY SABAH WITH ANADOLU AGENCY
ISTANBUL
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11 people died after a boat carrying 20 refugees capsized near the Kuşadası district of Turkey's Aydın province on Friday.

The inflatable boat carrying the 20 foreign nationals was en route to the Greek Island of Samos when it sank off the coast of Kuşadası due to strong waves and wind, according a statement.

Nine people have been rescued, the statement added.

It was previously reported that there were 22 people aboard, and a search and rescue operation was underway to find the missing three people after the Coast Guard rescued eight.

The operation was concluded after the survivors updated their number as 20, the Coast Guard said.

Meanwhile, police arrested two suspected human smugglers, who testified that they were on the boat with the migrants, but reached the shore on their own.

The number of asylum seekers caught crossing the Aegean Sea between Turkey and Greece has fallen by 85 percent since a refugee deal was signed with EU last year, according to data compiled from the Turkish Coast Guard Command on Tuesday.

According to official data, 16,627 refugees were intercepted in the Aegean after the Turkey-EU deal while this figure was 111,133 a year before the agreement.

The data shows that between April 2015 and March 2016, 437 people drowned while attempting to reach Greece. This figure fell by 95 percent to 20 since the deal was signed between Ankara and Brussels.

The data seems to reflect the success of the EU-Turkey readmission deal that came into effect last March to cut illegal migration and clamp down on human trafficking.

A spokesman for the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said Tuesday 20,484 migrants and refugees had entered Europe by sea in 2017 through March 19, with over 80 percent arriving in Italy and the rest in Spain and Greece, compared with 160,331 through the first 79 days of 2016.

IOM's Joel Millman said in a press conference in Geneva that African refugees were traveling via Italy in the wake of the readmission deal.

"IOM reports 525 Mediterranean deaths, short of the 553 reported during the same period in 2016. This year at least 481 migrants or refugees have drowned or gone missing on the Central Mediterranean route linking North Africa to Italy. Last year at this time, 159 migrants had been lost on this route," IOM said.

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