6 migrant children drown off Turkey's coast

Posted at 7:22 AM, Dec 08, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-08 07:22:10-05

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Six Afghan children drowned after a rubber dinghy carrying migrants to Greece sank off Turkey's Aegean coast on Tuesday, the state-run news agency reported.

Five other migrants, including a 12-year-old boy, were rescued from the sea off the resort of Cesme, and were found floating in lifejackets, Anadolu Agency said. Rescuers were searching for two other migrants who were reported missing.

The Turkish coast guard recovered the bodies of the six children. Anadolu didn't report their ages, but said one of them was a baby.

The migrants were apparently hoping to make it to the island of Chios from the resort of Cesme despite bad weather. The boat sank after wooden reinforcements used to fortify the boat came apart in the sea, causing the boat to take in water and sink, Anadolu said.

More than 700,000 migrants have crossed into Greece this year, many fleeing conflict in Syria or Iraq. Nearly all have entered the country from Turkey, paying large fees to smuggling gangs who arrange their crossings in small, overcrowded boats. Hundreds of people have drowned this year in the Aegean Sea, including dozens of children.

Turkey has stepped up efforts to stop migrants from leaving for Greece by sea, and last week, authorities rounded up around 3,000 migrants and asylum-seekers from Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria in the town of Ayvacik — north of Cesme — which is a main crossing point to the Greek island of Lesbos.

The sweep came after Turkey and EU leaders agreed to re-energize Turkey's long-stalled bid to join the 28-nation bloc and bolster their resolve to deal with the Syrian refugee crisis, although authorities wouldn't say if the detentions were directly related to the Turkish commitment to help contain the flow of migrants.

The human rights group, Amnesty International, criticized last week's detentions, calling them "alarming."