ISTANBUL • The Turkish authorities yesterday found the bodies of at least 21 migrants, including several children, washed up on beaches and floating in the sea off its western coast after their boats sank while crossing the Aegean Sea to European Union member Greece.
The tragedies come as the EU seeks to push Turkey to halt the flow of migrants across its borders in exchange for financial help.
Twenty-two migrants seeking to reach Lesbos in Greece set out before dawn aboard a rubber boat, but it capsized in bad weather, Dogan news agency reported. The bodies of 14 people were found either washed up on the beach near the resort of Ayvalik or in the sea nearby, Dogan said.
Eight more migrants were rescued. Among those found dead was a woman who was six months pregnant. Images published by Dogan showed the small corpses of children lying on the beach with their life-jackets still on. Video footage showed Turkish security forces lifting other bodies from the waves in the shallows on the shore.
In a second disaster, seven migrants were found dead off the resort of Dikili just to the south, it added. The victims there also included women and children, Dogan said.
The tragedies are the latest involving migrants fleeing war and misery in the hope of finding a new life in Europe. A drowned two-year-old boy became the first known migrant casualty of the year last Saturday after the crowded dinghy he was travelling in slammed into rocks off Greece's Agathonisi island, the coast guard said.
Turkey, which is home to some 2.2 million refugees from Syria's civil war, has become a hub for migrants seeking to reach Europe, many of whom pay people-smugglers thousands of dollars for the risky crossing.