A rescue diver standing on the shores of Lake Van after a boat carrying migrants sank in eastern Turkey on December 26, 2019. (File photo: AFP)
Eleven migrants, eight of them children, drowned off the west coast of Turkey after a boat taking them to Greece sunk in the Aegean Sea, the Turkish coast guard said late Saturday.
The coast guard said it responded to reports of screaming near the resort town of Cesme, just across from the Greek island of Chios, where refugees are crowded into unsanitary camps.
Eight of the 19 migrants aboard the small vessel swam ashore or were saved.
No information about the nationality of those on the boat was provided. Palestinian, Syrian, and Iraqi migrants often make up the majority of those making the dangerous crossing to Greece.
The Turkish coast guard regularly intercepts migrant boats heading to Greece as part of a deal with the European Union. In 2019, Turkish authorities reported nearly 60,000 apprehensions at sea while a similar number arrived in Greece, according to the UN. There were 71 reported migrant deaths in the Eastern Mediterranean last year.
Turkey has been a key transit point for migrants trying to reach Europe, mainly via Greece. Many are fleeing violence and persecution in their countries. Many rely on people smugglers and face dangerous land and sea routes which often result in deaths.