Seven children among nine Syrian migrants drowned off Turkey

#Migrants

Couple who survives disaster loses five of their children at sea

Migrant route from Turkey to Greece has seen increased usage this year (AFP/file photo)
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Sunday 3 June 2018 22:28 UTC
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Nine Syrian refugees, including seven children, trying to reach Europe drowned on Sunday when their speedboat sank off Turkey's Mediterranean coast, state media reported.

The migrants’ boat capsized early Sunday morning near the town of Demre in the southern province of Antalya, according to the Turkish Coast Guard, which said it had recovered nine bodies and rescued four other migrants, the New York Times reported. A fifth was saved by a passing fishing vessel.

One woman, a man and seven children lost their lives in the sinking that took place in the early hours, it said. The oldest child was 14 and the youngest just three, it added. Six people - all adults - were rescued.

The migrants said there had been 14 to 15 people on the vessel, according to the Turkish state-run news agency Anadolu, and the authorities said they were still searching for one other person.

The Dogan news agency said they were seeking to head illegally to Europe but their planned route was not immediately clear.

The nearest EU territory is the small Greek island of Kastellorizo to the west, which lies off the Turkish resort of Kas.

Anadolu said a couple who survived - named as Idris Rashit and Zeynep Osman - lost five of their children in the disaster. State media published images of the pair hunched in grief.

More than a million people, many fleeing the war in Syria, crossed to European Union member Greece from Turkey in 2015 after the onset of the bloc's worst migration crisis since World War II.

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Turkey struck a deal with the EU in 2016 in an effort to stem the flow of migrants, and agreed to take back illegal migrants landing on Greek islands in exchange for incentives including financial aid.

The deal, chastised by rights groups, sharply curbed the number of migrants seeking to cross the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas from Turkey to Greece.

However, observers say that the numbers seeking to use this route have been ticking up again in recent months.

According to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), 10,948 people crossed to Greece this year up to 30 May, sharply more than in the same period in 2017. Thirty-five people lost their lives using this route so far this year, the IOM says.

As well as migrants from countries such as Syria, Eritrea, Iraq and Afghanistan, the route has been used by Turkish citizens fleeing the crackdown that followed the 2016 failed coup.