Eight dead after migrant boat sinks off Turkey: coastguard

Ankara (AFP) –


Eight people died after a boat carrying illegal migrants sank off southwestern Turkey early Monday, the Turkish coastguard said.

It said 31 migrants had been rescued after the boat sank off the coast of Bodrum district in Mugla province, and search and rescue efforts are continuing.

It was not immediately known which country or countries the migrants were from.

The incident took place a few kilometres (miles) from the Greek island of Kos.

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

Migrants fleeing war and poverty use Turkey as one of the transit countries to try and reach Europe although the numbers have dropped since the influx hit a peak in 2015.

In 2015 over a million people arrived in Greece from Turkey, mostly via boats, during the worst refugee crisis since the Second World War.

But a March 2016 deal between Ankara and the European Union helped staunch the flow.

While 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 attempting to cross the Mediterranean, according to the International Organization for Migration.

The figure was 924 last year, but lower than the peak of 2,911 deaths recorded in 2016.