Migrant crisis: ’24 dead’ off Turkey as boat sinks

BBC / New Age Online

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At least 24 migrants have died off the Turkish coast trying to reach the Greek island of Lesbos, Turkish media say.
The victims, including children, drowned when their boat capsized after setting off from Balikesir province.
About 400 people have died crossing into Europe in 2016, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) says.
Most were travelling to Greece on their way to northern Europe. Recent fighting in Syria has sent thousands of people fleeing towards the Turkish border.
The sea route from Turkey to Greece was the most popular way for migrants to try and enter Europe in 2015.
In the latest incident, the migrants departed from the Altinoluk area in western Turkey, and their boat capsized two miles into the crossing, Hurriyet newspaper said.
The paper denied earlier media reports that another migrant boat had capsized further south off Izmir province.
News of the deaths comes as Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel is in Turkey to discuss ways of reducing the number of migrants travelling to Europe.
After meeting Mrs Merkel, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Germany and Turkey would seek the use of Nato resources in the Aegean Sea and on the Syrian border to help handle the flow of migrants.
The IOM says close to 69,000 people have already arrived on Greek shores so far this year, despite often stormy conditions, compared to almost 854,000 in the whole of last year.
Nearly half of those who have arrived in Greece this year are from Syria, the IOM says.
But thousands of Syrians seeking to flee a government offensive in Aleppo, backed by Russian air strikes, are being prevented from leaving their homeland.
Turkey has so far closed the border to most of the 30,000 migrants gathering at the Kilis border crossing, despite appeals by EU leaders to let them cross.
After her talks in Ankara, Merkel said: ‘In the past days we have been not only shocked but horrified by the human suffering of tens of thousands of people through bomb attacks predominantly carried out by the Russian side.’
Mr Davutoglu said his country would accept the migrants ‘when necessary’, and that it would reveal plans next week to slow the flow of arrivals.
Angela Merkel’s second visit to Turkey in five months is once again dominated by the refugee crisis.
On the one hand the EU is telling Turkey it has a moral if not a legal obligation to accept those fleeing persecution. But on the other, Merkel is among those stressing that Turkey must stem the migration flow to Europe.
Caught between the two messages are the refugees stuck on the Syrian side of the closed border, albeit cared for by Turkish aid groups.
Ankara says it has reached capacity, but if there is no other option it could allow them in. But as the battle for Aleppo intensifies, tens of thousands more could follow.
Syria’s descent into hell is still playing out on Europe’s borders.

(Updated)

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