33 Greece-bound migrants, including young children, drown off Turkey: Report

Migrants rowing a dinghy in rough seas between Greece and Turkey.
Migrants rowing a dinghy in rough seas between Greece and Turkey.PHOTO: REUTERS

AYVACIK, Turkey (AFP) - Turkish coastguard officials recovered the bodies of women and children washed up on a beach on Saturday (Jan 30) after yet another migrant boat trying to reach Europe sank, leaving up to 33 dead, according to local media.

In harrowing scenes reminiscent of Aylan Kurdi, the Syrian toddler photographed lying dead on a Turkish beach in September, the tiny body of a baby could be seen among those lying on a beach near the town of Ayvacik in north-western Canakkale province, an AFP photographer at the scene said.

Another baby was found dead in the water.

Several other young children also drowned after the boat ferrying them and their families - some from Syria, others from Afghanistan and Myanmar - to the nearby Greek island of Lesbos sank just off the Turkish coast.

State-run Anatolia news agency said 33 people died in the tragedy, which comes two days after 25 migrants, including 10 children, drowned off the Greek island of Samos.

A further 75 people were rescued on Saturday by the coastguard, Anatolia said.

AFP's photographer counted at least 19 bodies. Earlier, a coastguard official confirmed a death toll of at least 10.

"We are sad. At least 20 friends are still missing," a woman who was among the survivors said earlier, weeping.

The capsized boat was visible around 50m from the shore, where divers from the coastguard were still searching for the missing. Military police in green berets placed bodies in bags to be taken to a morgue.

Life jackets and other refugees' belongings were seen dotted around the beach.

The drownings continue the grisly trend that accelerated last year when nearly 4,000 people died trying to reach Europe by sea, according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

The influx, which has been fuelled by Syria's civil war, has continued throughout the winter.

During the first 28 days of 2016, a further 244 migrants died at sea, with at least a dozen more dying on land, the IOM said on Friday.

Turkey, which is hosting at least 2.5 million refugees from Syria's civil war, has become the main launchpad for migrants fleeing war, persecution and poverty to Europe.

The Turkish government struck a deal with the EU in November to halt the outflow of refugees, in return for 3 billion euros (S$4.6 billion) in financial assistance, but the agreement has failed to check the migrant tide.