Many children among 61 dead as boat carrying migrants sinks off Turkey

Reuters reports: At least 61 migrants, most of them Palestinian and more than half of them children, died after their overcrowded boat sank less than a hundred metres off Turkey’s western Aegean coast on Thursday, a district official has said.

Tahsin Kurtbeyoglu, governor of the coastal district of Menderes in Izmir province, said an initial investigation showed the small vessel sank around dawn as a result of overcrowding. Its destination was unclear but the small Turkish town of Ahmetbeyli, from which it had left, is only a few kilometres from the Greek island of Samos, and Greece is a common entry point for migrants trying to get into the European Union.

“The latest death toll we have is 61 people, including 12 men, 18 women and 31 children, including three babies,” Kurtbeyoglu said. Turkish media said the reason the death toll was so high was that women and children were in a locked compartment in the lower section of the vessel, although there was no official confirmation of this.

Hürriyet Daily News adds: The survivors, who were Iraqi, Palestinian and Syrian citizens, were interrogated with the help of Kurdish-speaking security personnel. They said they stayed in hotels in İzmir’s Basmane district for a while and then contacted human traffickers to go to the United Kingdom. The traffickers then leased the boat from Istanbul and sailed to İzmir.

Menderes District Gov. Tahsin Kurtbeyoğlu said, “We have determined that the boat sank after sailing at 5:20 a.m. this morning. There are occasional illegal immigrants in this region. But we did not have a tip off about this incident. The investigation is ongoing.”

The İzmir-based Immigrant Solidarity Association president, Taner Kılıç, told CNNTürk the attempts of Syrian immigrants to pass to Greek islands had increased in the past two months. The camps that were set up in Turkey’s border regions in 2011 for Syrian immigrants were in good condition compared to other camps but still inadequate, Kılıç said, adding, “People are staying in those camps for one year. We can’t just say the circumstances are good compared to other camps because they cannot have any education; they cannot be involved in social life.”

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