Mon, 22 Jul 2019

Eight people have drowned after a boat carrying migrants and refugees sank off southwestern Turkey, according to the Turkish coastguard.

Thirty-one people were rescued from the boat, which sank off coast of the Bodrum district in Mugla province on Monday, the coastguard said.

Operations, carried out with two boats, a diving team and a helicopter from the coastguard, had found the bodies of eight people from the vessel, which was originally carrying 40 people.

In an earlier statement, the coastguard had said efforts were under way to reach nine people missing from the dinghy.

It was not immediately known which country the migrants and refugees were from nor what caused the boat to sink.

Turkey's Daily Sabah newspaper reported that the people onboard had been trying to reach the Greek islands. The incident took place a few kilometres from Kos.

Numbers have dropped

The incident comes a week after seven, including two children, died when a boat capsized between Turkey and the Greek islands.

Turkey is home to almost three million Syrian refugees and up to 300 000 Iraqis who have fled conflicts in their respective countries.

It is one of the transit countries for migrants fleeing war and poverty as they try to reach Europe.

Numbers have dropped since the peak in 2015, when more than a million people arrived in Greece from Turkey, mostly via boats, in one of the worst refugee crises since the Second World War.

A March 2016 deal between Ankara and the European Union saw numbers drop as migrants and refugees arriving in Greece would be sent back to Turkey if they did not apply for asylum or if their claim was rejected.

Arrivals on the Greek islands were 875 000 in 2015, the figure fell to under 40 000 per year in 2017 and 2018, according to Frontex, the EU's border force.

Between January and June this year, 555 migrants died attempted to cross the Mediterranean, according to the International Organisation for Migration.

Last year, there were 924 deaths.

The peak came in 2016, when 2 911 people died during the crossing.

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