The Coast Guard rescued 13 illegal immigrants from a sinking boat off the coast of Bodrum, a southwestern Turkish town, yesterday. The immigrants were heading to the Greek island of Kos aboard a five-meter long boat when it started sinking.
They were identified as 12 Palestinians and a Syrian national. A Palestinian man and his five-year-old son who nearly drowned were hospitalized. The father was in critical condition.
Turkey has been a main route for irregular migrants trying to cross into Europe, especially since 2011 when the Syrian civil war began. On Monday, the Coast Guard saved 58 illegal immigrants from certain death when their small boat started taking on water off the coast of Foça, a town north of Bodrum. Like those rescued yesterday, the group was trying to reach Greek islands near Turkish shores.
Despite the deadly risk, migrants still take the dangerous route to Greece via the Aegean Sea almost daily from western Turkish shores. Paying high sums to smugglers, they board small boats that often capsize due to overcrowding. Tight patrolling by the Coast Guard in the region is credited with preventing possible disasters. Yet, 63 people were killed in separate incidents this year so far when their boats sank in the Aegean and Mediterranean seas. Figures for the first eight months of 2018 show that the number of illegal immigrants intercepted while trying to cross into Europe from Turkey increased 37 percent compared to the same period last year. This year, the Coast Guard has stopped 16,617 people of different nationalities so far. An 80 percent drop was recorded in crossings in August, the lowest compared to the same month in 2017, yet nine were killed trying to cross into Greece