At least 33 people, including 5 children, were drowned off the western coast of Turkey Saturday, when their boat capsized, according to the Associated Press. Meanwhile, local media reported a death toll of 39, citing the Turkish Coast Guard.
Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency said that 75 people were rescued from the sea after the boat sank near the resort of Ayvacik en route to the Greek island of Lesbos, while one Turkish citizen was detained for his alleged role in organizing the trip.
Nationals of Afghanistan, Myanmar and Syria were among the causalities, the coast guard reportedly said, adding that the vessel set off from near Bademli, a village in Turkey’s Çanakkale province, before running into trouble during the crossing.
With many Greek islands lying within sight of its coast, Turkey’s provinces of Çanakkale, Balıkesir, Izmir, Mugla and Aydın have been hotspots for refugees leaving for the European Union from Turkey.
Turkey is hosting about 2.5 million refugees from Syria. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), of the 1.1 million refugees who arrived in Europe last year, more than 850,000 took the sea route to reach Greece from Turkey. IOM also estimated that 805 refugees died in the Aegean Sea over the last year.
In November, Turkey struck a deal with the EU pledging to help stem the flow of migrants to Europe in return for 3 billion euros ($3.3 billion) in financial aid as well as renewed talks on joining the 28-member bloc.