Migrant boat sinks off Turkey, 17 Syrians dead

Syrian refugees arrive on a fishing boat from Turkey on the shores of the Greek island of Lesbos , Sunday Sept. 27, 2015. (AP)

Seventeen Syrian refugees including five children drowned Sunday when their boat sank in Turkish waters on its way to Greece, local media reported.

The Turkish coastguard recovered the bodies from the wooden boat that had set off from the Turkish holiday resort town of Bodrum for the Greek island of Leros, the Dogan news agency reported.

The refugees drowned when they failed to get out of the boat’s cabin, the news agency said.

Another 20 migrants, who were on the boat’s deck, survived and swam back to the Turkish coast, it added. All were wearing life jackets.

The survivors were taken to a morgue in Bodrum to identify their drowned relatives.

Migrants rescued

Separately, some 500 migrants were rescued in seven operations launched over the weekend in the Mediterranean, the Italian coastguard said.

A spokesman told AFP on Sunday that four of the rescue operations had already wound up but the others were ongoing.

“Saturday was quiet on the whole but now there is further movement,” he said. “We have had several interventions -- one by a ship belonging to (medical charity) MSF, two coastguard units as well as an Italian naval ship and a ship belonging to EU Navfor Med,” he said.

The EU Navfor Med is a military operation launched at the end of June to identify, capture and dispose of vessels and rescue migrants undertaking risky journeys in a desperate bid to try and get to Europe from war-ravaged Syria and other trouble spots.

The mission is equipped with four ships, including an Italian aircraft carrier, and four planes. It is manned by 1,318 troops from 22 European countries.

A German frigate named Werra and an MSF (Doctors Without Borders) ship rescued 140 people from a giant dinghy on Saturday afternoon, according to an AFP photographer.

EU leaders have agreed to boost aid for Syria's neighbours, including one billion dollars through U.N. agencies, in a bid to mitigate the refugee influx into Europe.

Some 500,000 people have come to Europe so far this year, the International Organization for Migration says, many of them taking perilous journeys across the Mediterranean on inflatable dinghies.

Most are fleeing conflicts and misery in Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Africa.

More than 2,800 people have died or disappeared making the crossing since January.

The picture of three-year-old Syrian refugee Aylan Kurdi, whose body was found washed up on a Turkish beach after a failed attempt to reach Greece, horrified the world, pressuring European leaders to step up their response to the refugee crisis

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:46 - GMT 06:46
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