Tragedy strikes: 22 migrants, including children, drown in Aegean Sea

Coastguards were deployed in the area to search for other victims while helicopters, drones, and an airplane are flying over the area

At least 22 migrants, including seven children traveling on a rubber dinghy, drowned on Friday in the Aegean Sea off the northwest coast of Turkey, authorities announced.

“We found 22 bodies, including those of seven children,” said the governorship of the Turkish province of Çanakkale in a statement. An earlier toll reported 21 dead, including five children.

The governorship specified that at least four migrants survived the shipwreck.

The vessel capsized off Gökçeada, or Imbros, the largest island in Turkey, in the northwestern province of Çanakkale, located about 50 kilometers from the Greek island of Limnos, according to the same source.

Coastguards were deployed in the area to search for other victims while helicopters, drones, and an airplane are flying over the area, local authorities reported.

The nationality of the migrants was not specified.

The provincial governor told the state news agency Anadolu that the shipwreck occurred overnight.

According to Anadolu, several ambulances were sent to the port of Kabatepe, located opposite the island of Gökçeada, to attend to survivors and transport the bodies to hospital morgues.

Many migrants continue to attempt to reach the European Union aboard precarious vessels from the Turkish coast to neighboring Greek islands.

According to Frontex, the European Union agency responsible for border control, the number of migrants attempting to reach Europe via the Eastern Mediterranean in January and February is more than twice as high as last year.

Most migrants come from Afghanistan, Syria, and Egypt, according to Frontex.

Turkish coastguards said that since the beginning of the week, they have rescued or intercepted several hundred migrants attempting to cross into Greece, often accompanied by children.

At least five people died in mid-November after their boat sank off the coast of the Turkish province of Izmir, opposite the Greek islands of Chios and Samos.

According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), 3,105 migrants disappeared in the Mediterranean in 2023, the highest figure since 2017. Since January, 360 migrants have died or disappeared, according to the same source.

A boat with at least 60 migrants capsized on Wednesday in the Mediterranean, after setting sail from the Libyan coast, according to testimonies from survivors rescued by the humanitarian ship “Ocean Viking.”

In a report published in early March, the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) warned of an increase in migrant arrivals on Greek islands from Turkey.

Turkey hosts nearly four million refugees, the vast majority of them Syrians, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

In 2016, an agreement was signed between the EU and Turkey for the country to keep Syrian refugees on its territory.

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