Eight migrants including six children drowned when their overloaded boat sank in the Aegean Sea on Thursday while heading for the Greek island of Lesbos in the latest tragedy involving refugees trying to enter Europe.
The wooden boat capsized in high waves two miles off the Bademli coast in the Aegean, the private Dogan news agency reported, adding that another 14 migrants were missing.
The Turkish coastguard were hunting for the missing and divers were rushed to the scene after a tip-off that more refugees could be stuck in the deck, Dogan said.
The UN refugee agency and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said this week more than one million migrants and refugees reached Europe this year, most of them by sea.
The vast majority of people -- over 800,000 -- landed in Greece, according to the figures.
On Wednesday, Greek police said that at least 13 people including seven children, drowned when their boat sank in the Aegean.
Turkey, which is currently playing host to at least 2.2 million Syrian refugees, is a major launch pad for migrants who are seeking better lives in the European Union member states.
The EU is grappling for solutions to mass migrant arrival in Europe, most of them Syrian refugees from Turkey.
Ankara reached an agreement with the EU in November to stem the flow of refugees heading to Europe, in return for financial assistance.
Brussels vowed to provide three billion euros ($3.2 billion) in cash as well as political concessions to Ankara in return for its cooperation in tackling Europe’s worst migrant crisis since World War II.
After the landmark deal, Turkish coastguard and police have stepped up their presence along the coasts where smugglers operate the refugee business.
EU ambassador to Turkey, Hansjorg Haber, told AFP last week that the goal was to put smugglers “out of business” and deter migrants from going to the coastline.
“We are already seeing enhanced effort on the part of the gendarmerie and the police but basically we want to stop this,” he said.
The Turkish government however criticises the EU’s “security-oriented” approach to the refugee crisis, saying that the issue should be dealt with in a comprehensive manner.
“The refugee issue is not a matter of political bribery,” a Turkish government official said, while adding that there was no other country as experienced as Turkey in meeting refugee demands.
Meanwhile, because of the winter conditions, there has been a decrease in the number of migrants who are seeking to travel to Europe by risky sea journeys.
Turkish media reported this week that human smugglers declined per migrant trip to $500 from around $1,200 because of a reduced demand.