World

Dozens more migrants drown trying to reach Greece

Ankara: At least 37 people have drowned after a boat carrying Syrian refugees attempting the short sea journey from Turkey to Greece struck rocks and capsized.

Images of dead children on a beach on Saturday were another soul-searing reminder that Europe's migrant crisis keeps destroying lives and families by the day.

They recalled the photo of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi lying face down on a Turkish beach last year. His story put an intimate face on the Syrian refugee crisis for people across the world, prompting many to finally grapple with the magnitude of the suffering caused by the war in the Middle East and the treacherous journeys many risk seeking shelter in Europe.

By contrast, the heartbreaking images Saturday met a muted response, perhaps a sign that many have grown weary of the unending reports about the suffering of migrants even though the number of people dying at sea is rising.

"January has been the deadliest month so far for drownings between Turkey and Greece," Peter Bouckaert, the emergencies director at Human Rights Watch, told The Associated Press in an email.

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"Almost every day, more drown on this dangerous journey."

Saturday's tragedy occurred when the boat capsized at dawn as dozens of people attempted the deceptively short crossing from the Turkish coast to the Greek island of Lesbos barely eight kilometres away.

More than 250 migrants have drowned already this month trying to reach one of Greece's offshore islands, entry point to the European Union and its uncertain promise of refuge from war and poverty.

The Turkish coast guard said three ships, a helicopter and team of divers searched the partially submerged craft and surrounding seas for more bodies as police on shore placed bodies, some 10 children among them, in black bags.

Journalists at the scene tried to interview some of the 75 survivors, but police took them away in buses, some bound for a local hospital to be treated for hypothermia and other injuries, others into police custody for questioning.

Turkey's Anadolu new agency has identified the survivors as natives of Afghanistan, Syria and Myanmar.

A Turkish government official said by the late afternoon that rescuers had recovered bodies trapped inside the wreckage of the 17-metre boat, which sank shortly after departing from the shore near the Aegean resort of Ayvacik, raising the death toll to 37.

Saim Eskioglu, deputy governor for the coastal Canakkale province that includes Ayvacik, said the boat "hit rocks soon after it left the coast".

"There were around 10 children among the dead," Mr Eskioglu said.

AP

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