Europe

Migrant boat sinks off Turkish coast 'drowning 11'

Survivor is rescued after boat capsizes off Turkey Image copyright Dogan / Reuters
Image caption Nine people were rescued but 11 died, the coastguard said

Eleven people have drowned as a boat carrying migrants sank off western Turkey, local media report.

Nine people were rescued and two suspected smugglers detained, after the inflatable boat capsized off the coast of Kusadasi, DHA news agency said.

Five children were among the dead, it reported, and said the migrants were Syrians, probably attempting to reach the Greek islands.

Video footage showed several bodies laid out near ambulances on a beach.

It comes as more than 200 migrants are feared dead after a Spanish aid organisation found five bodies off the Libyan coast.

Proactiva said those bodies were found on Thursday morning, floating near two capsized boats which could each hold more than 100 people, 15 miles (24km) from the Libyan port of Sabrata.

The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, said it was "deeply alarmed" by the reports

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Only five bodies have been recovered from near the boats found floating off Libya

Numbers of migrants trying to reach Europe from Libya via Italy have risen dramatically this year since a deal between Turkey and the EU greatly reduced the numbers attempting to cross from Turkey to Greece.

According to figures from the International Organization for Migration (IOM), between the start of this year and 22 March, nearly 3,500 migrants arrived in Greece - and two died on the way, compared to nearly 150,000 arrivals and 366 deaths in the equivalent period last year, before the deal was agreed.

In the same period this year, more than 20,000 people have arrived in Italy - using the Central Mediterranean route from Libya - with 515 deaths, up from just under 15,000 and 160 deaths in 2016.

The figures exclude the latest incidents, which the UNHCR says come after an intense week of arrivals in Italy, with almost 6,000 migrants and refugees rescued in just five days this week.

The Italian coast guard said they had co-ordinated more than 40 rescue operations in the last few days.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Proactiva said the five bodies they pulled from the Mediterranean on Thursday were young men

IOM spokesman Joel Millman said earlier this week: "We have yet to complete March, and we are already racing at a pace of arrivals that has exceeded anything we've seen before in the Mediterranean."

"This is typical of spring, getting very busy, but it's not typical to have the numbers be so high this early and the corresponding deaths that go with it."

This week marks the one year anniversary of the EU-Turkey deal, under which Turkey has agreed to take back migrants arriving in Greece if they do not apply for asylum or their claim is rejected.

But the Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has said he will review the agreement after a referendum next month on boosting his powers, which has sparked a row over Turkish campaigning in some EU countries.

A note on terminology: The BBC uses the term migrant to refer to all people on the move who have yet to complete the legal process of claiming asylum. This group includes people fleeing war-torn countries such as Syria, who are likely to be granted refugee status, as well as people who are seeking jobs and better lives, who governments are likely to rule are economic migrants.

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