18 migrants drown after boat sinks off Turkey’s southwestern coast

 Refugees and migrants arrive in an overloaded rubber dinghy after crossing the Aegean Sea.
Refugees and migrants arrive in an overloaded rubber dinghy after crossing the Aegean Sea.PHOTO: EPA

ISTANBUL (REUTERS) – Eighteen people died and 14 were rescued late on Friday (Dec 18) after a boat carrying migrants trying to sail to Greece sank off the southern Turkish town of Bodrum, Dogan News Agency reported.

Fishermen hearing the migrants’ screams of migrants alerted the Turkish coast guard, who picked up the bodies from the sea after the wooden boat carrying migrants from Iraq, Pakistan and Syria capsized about 3.5km off the coast.

Those rescued were taken to the hospital in Bodrum, many in serious condition, the agency said. 

The coast guard was not immediately available for comment.

A record 500,000 refugees from the four-year-old civil war in Syria have travelled through Turkey then risked their lives at sea to reach Greek islands this year, their first stop in the European Union before continuing to wealthier countries.

Despite the winter conditions and rougher seas, the exodus has continued, albeit at a slower pace.

Nearly 600 people have died this year on the so-called eastern Mediterranean sea route for migrants, according to the International Organisation for Migration.

Turkey struck a deal with the EU on Nov 29 pledging to help stem the flow of migrants into Europe in return for 3 billion euros of cash for the 2.2 million Syrians Ankara has been hosting, visas, and renewed talks on joining the 28-nation bloc.