Thu. Apr 25th, 2024

Local authorities in Turkey reported a devastating incident on Friday, as twenty-one migrants, among them five children, lost their lives when a boat capsized off the Turkish coast. The victims’ nationalities have yet to be disclosed, although two individuals were rescued by the Turkish coastguard, while two others managed to escape the water unaided.

The tragic event unfolded near Turkey’s largest island, Gokceada or Imbros, situated in the Aegean Sea off the coast of the northwestern province of Canakkale, close to Greece’s Lemnos island. A statement from the local governor’s office confirmed the recovery of the bodies of 21 individuals, including the five children.

In response to the distress call, an extensive search and rescue operation was mobilized, deploying one aeroplane, two helicopters, one drone, 18 boats, and 502 personnel. Turkey, currently hosting nearly four million refugees, primarily from Syria, witnesses frequent attempts by migrants to reach the Greek islands from its western coasts, often resulting in tragic losses at sea.

The recent incident underscores the ongoing migrant crisis in the region, with heightened activity observed in the waters between Turkey and Greece in recent weeks. The Turkish coastguard reported intercepting several hundred migrants, including children, attempting to cross to Greece since the beginning of the week.

The Mediterranean Sea has long been a focal point for migrant flows from Africa and the Middle East to Europe, with a peak in 2015 during the Syrian civil war. In response, Turkey reached an agreement with the European Union in 2016 to mitigate the influx of refugees in exchange for financial aid and other incentives.

The issue of irregular migration remains a contentious issue between NATO allies Turkey and Greece, compounded by longstanding disputes ranging from territorial claims in the Aegean Sea to the divided island of Cyprus. Despite recent diplomatic efforts to mend relations, tensions persist, with both sides accusing each other of various infractions related to migrant movements.

The forthcoming visit of Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis to Ankara in May is expected to address these challenges, with the issue of migrants likely to feature prominently in discussions between the two nations.

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