At least 24 migrants drown in shipwreck off Istanbul

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Al-Akhbar Management

Published Monday, November 3, 2014

At least 24 migrants drowned on Monday when a boat taking them towards European Union waters sank in the Black Sea just off Istanbul, Turkish media reported.

Seven people were rescued and nine more were missing from the stricken boat, which had set off earlier from Istanbul and had travelled through the Bosphorus Strait on its way to Romania.

Those on board were Afghans who had paid several thousand euros each in search of a better life in the EU and had set off earlier from Bakirkoy, an Istanbul suburb on the Sea of Marmara side of the Bosphorus.

Twelve children and seven women were reported to have been on board, the reports added, quoting a statement from the coast guard.

A coastguard official contacted by AFP confirmed the accident but could not give the exact number of victims. The boat capsized due to overloading and bad weather conditions.

Hundreds of immigrants have drowned en route to Europe in recent years.

In October, at least 10 migrants from sub-Saharan Africa drowned and dozens more went missing after their boat sank in the Mediterranean offshore Libya.

Out of 180 people on board, between 80 and 90 people were rescued after the boat went down in waters east of Tripoli.

The tragedy was the second in the month of October involving Africans trying to make it to Europe and comes a year after 360 people perished in a sinking, burning ship off the Italian island of Lampedusa.

Earlier in October, Spanish coastguards pulled the bodies of two Africans from the sea off Morocco and six others were missing after a dinghy carrying them sank.

By far the worst tragedy took place in September when about 500 people drowned off Malta after traffickers rammed and sank their boat after they refused to transfer to a smaller vessel.

The implosion of Libya, war in Syria and renewed Israeli-Palestinian hostilities have helped push the flow of would-be refugees seeking sanctuary in Europe to unprecedented levels.

In September, around 500 people drowned after their boat sank off Malta, including up to 100 children who had been making the treacherous journey from Egypt to Italy, according to the Geneva-based organization.

Fifth of them were Palestinians from the besieged Gaza Strip driven by war and unemployment to leave the enclave for a better future.

Survivors of the most deadly migrant shipwreck in years have described the horrifying moment traffickers capsized their boat and left them to drown.

"After they hit our boat they waited to make sure that it had sunk completely before leaving. They were laughing," one survivor told the International Organization for Migration (IOM) at the time.

(AFP, Al-Akhbar)

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