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Middle East Amp North Africa
At least 24 migrants die as boat capsizes
From the Financial Times of Mon, 03 Nov 2014 13:02:46 GMT
Rescuers retrieve a boat that sank off the Black Sea village of Garipce near Istanbul November 3, 2014. Rescuers pulled 24 dead bodies from the sea at the mouth of Istanbul's Bosphorus strait on Monday and rescued seven people after the boat carrying a group of migrants sank, the Turkish Coastguard Command said. Seven coastguard vessels and a helicopter were continuing search operations in the Black Sea, some 3 miles (5 km) north of the Bosphorus, the coastguard said in a statement. Media reports said some 40 illegal migrants, including children, were believed to have been on the boat. REUTERS/Osman Orsal (TURKEY - Tags: DISASTER SOCIETY IMMIGRATION MARITIME)©Reuters

At least 24 people drowned off the Istanbul coast on Monday morning when a boat carrying migrants reportedly from Afghanistan and Syria capsized in the Black Sea just north of the Bosphorus strait.

Witness reports described bodies of children, some as young as three, floating in the sea in severe winds that may have flipped the overloaded vessel.

The boat was carrying about 40 passengers. The Turkish coastguard said seven had been rescued and 24 bodies recovered, as rescue operations continued.

The disaster is the latest in a series of fatal accidents for would-be illegal migrants packed on to ships by traffickers. But, unlike many others, it occurred not on the high seas but close to one of the world’s biggest cities.

Turkey hosts more than 1.5m refugees from the civil war in Syria and has long been a staging post for people in the Middle East and the broader region seeking to reach western and central Europe.

But the physical obstacles to such attempts have grown more forbidding, particularly on the EU’s land border with Turkey. This summer Bulgaria completed a 33km barbed wire fence to prevent illegal crossings; it has been criticised by the campaigning organisation Human Rights Watch for allegedly forcing refugees back across the border. Greece built a similar 10.5km fence on its border with Turkey in 2012.

The turbulence in the region has tripled the number of migrants arriving in southern Europe by sea. Yet Italy announced on Friday it would end extensive search-and-rescue operations, which are being replaced by EU-funded maritime border patrols.

Many migrants attempt to travel from Turkey to Greece’s Aegean Islands, but the boat in Monday’s accident had travelled up the busy Bosphorus strait – a conduit for tankers and container ships as well as commuter vessels – into the Black Sea.

It was reportedly going to Romania, with local media claiming that some of those aboard had paid thousands of euros to traffickers for the journey.

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