Six children, including a baby, were found dead this morning in Turkey’s Aegean Sea, with a seventh child, Sajida Ali- just 5 years old- found on Monday after washing up on a beach in the affluent Turkish province Izmir following a separate incident.
According to Anadolu Agency, the children drowned after the boat they were travelling to Greece in sank somewhere off Turkey’s Aegean coast. The children were reportedly Afghani and aboard a vessel which capsized whilst travelling to the Greek island of Chios despite bad weather.
The Turkish coast guard managed to rescue eight other people who were wearing life jackets, however are still searching for two more according to reports.
This is one of many similar incidents increasingly occurring around the Turkish coast as thousands continue to leave Turkey, seeking refuge and a better life in Europe.
The number of deaths this year alone has reached over 600, as Syrians, Iraqis, Iranians and Afghanis flee war and conflict, facing this perilous journey in search of safety and security.
Although still high, the number rescued however has reportedly increased by over 500 percent in 2015, saving thousands of lives. According to Prime Ministry figures, 79,489 migrants have been rescued in 2,133 incidents this year, compared to 2014 when it was 14,961, in 574 separate incidents.
Turkey has supposedly been cracking down on smuggling gangs who charge vast fees for perilous journeys in overcrowded boats; however the sheer number of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers entering the country as well as porous borders makes this a nearly insurmountable task.
Furthermore, supposed efforts to combat smuggling operations, in line with re-energized EU accession talks, seem to have primarily targeted already vulnerable peoples rather than the gangs themselves. So far thousands have been detained in what Amnesty International has described as “illegal” and “unconscionable” sweeps.
Those detained are reportedly being sent to overcrowded detention centres before being forcibly returned to neighbouring Syria and Iraq. This not only violates international law, but Turkey’s own open door policy.
These recent sweeps appear somewhat inconsistent with Turkey’s largely sympathetic stance towards the refugee crisis, indicating external pressure from the EU. The EU has entered negotiations with Turkey to extend a visa-free travel agreement for Turkish citizens in exchange for Turkey’s commitment in stopping the flow of refugees in to Europe. The dark irony in this exchange appears to have been lost on political leaders from both sides.
The social media debate and pressure placed on western countries to open their doors to more Syrian refugees following the similar and tragic death of Aylan Kurdi, the Syrian toddler who drowned whilst trying to cross the Mediterranean in September seems to have faded, replaced by increasing calls to close Europe’s borders to refugees.Donald Trump today called for the US borders to be closed to all Muslims, including US citizens, sparking outrage across the world.
Seemingly the impact had by the death of Aylan Kurdi has waned significantly and Europe hardens its shell against the physical and emotional responsibilities of this crisis.
As winter arrives fully in Turkey, deaths like these are likely to increase, highlighting a desperate need to provide alternative safe and legal routes into Europe.
As argued by the Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council Jan Egeland, “The number of refugees and migrants arriving in Europe is not very big when compared to the total population of the continent.., This is a test of our humanity. Europe can handle this crisis, but states need to work together and support the countries that are most overwhelmed.”