UPDATE – Refugee boat sinks off Turkey’s Aegean coast, 25 dead


Search and rescue operation still ongoing


AYDIN, Turkey – The death toll from the refugee boat that sank this weekend in the Aegean Sea off Turkey’s western province of Aydin has risen to 25.

According to the district governor, the refugee boat was en route to Greece when it sank off the coast of the Didim district. The Turkish Coast Guard has so far rescued 15 refugees.

A search and rescue operation is still underway. The total number of refugees involved is not yet known.

Turkey’s Aegean provinces – Canakkale, Balikesir, Izmir, Mugla and Aydin – are prime spots for refugees leaving for the EU, with many Greek islands lying within sight of the Turkish coast.

Over the past year, hundreds of thousands have made short but perilous journeys in a bid to reach northern and western Europe in search of a better life.

Nearly 135,000 migrants or refugees have crossed into Greece and Italy since the beginning of 2016, according to the International Organization of Migration (IOM). Of the 134,905 migrants who have already crossed the Mediterranean this year, as of March 3 some 125,819 have reached the Greek islands, while the others landed in Italy. Media reports indicate that arrivals in Spain in 2016 are fewer than 100.

Of the more than 1.1 million refugees who arrived in the EU last year, more than 850,000 arrived by sea to Greece from Turkey, according to the IOM. Over the course of the year, 805 people died in the Aegean.