AYVACIK (Turkey) • The Turkish coastguard has recovered the bodies of women and children washed up on a beach after yet another migrant boat sank while trying to reach Europe, leaving at least 37 people dead.
In harrowing scenes reminiscent of the death of Syrian toddler Aylan Kurdi, who was photographed lying dead on a Turkish beach in September last year, the body of a small child could be seen last Saturday among those strewn on a beach near the town of Ayvacik in Turkey's north-western Canakkale province, said an Agence France-Presse (AFP) photographer at the scene.
An AFP photo showed the dead child dressed in dark trousers and a blue top, face covered with a small hat. A pacifier lay close to the body. In another image, a Turkish gendarme was seen lowering the corpse of an older child into a body bag.
Another young child was found dead in the water, according to the AFP photographer.
An unknown number of other 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.
The fatalities came as German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that she expected most of the refugees who were being taken in by Germany from Syria and Iraq to return home once peace returned to their countries.
Dr Merkel has faced strong pressure over her welcoming stance towards asylum seekers.
The migrant deaths off Turkey follow another incident two days ago in which 25 migrants, including 10 children, drowned off the Greek island of Samos.
A Turkish official said the Turkish coastguard last Saturday recovered 37 bodies from the scene of the latest tragedy, including children. In an earlier statement, the Turkish coastguard said 75 people had been rescued.
"We are sad. At least 20 friends are still missing," said a weeping woman, who was among survivors.
The drownings continue a grim trend that accelerated last year, when nearly 4,000 people died trying to reach Europe by sea, according to the International Organisation for Migration.
During the first 28 days of this year, a further 244 migrants died at sea, with at least a dozen more dying on land, the organisation said last 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 in their home countries and heading to Europe.