Turkey and Greece search for survivors after refugee boat sinks

Turkey and Greece search for survivors after refugee boat sinks
3 min read
Turkish and Greek coastguards are searching for survivors after a boat carrying mostly Syrian and Iraqi refugees sank in adverse weather conditions off the coast of Crete.
Turkish and Greek ships are looking for survivors [Getty]

Greek and Turkish coast guards are searching for at least eight people who remained missing after a boat carrying 45 refugees sank off the coast of Crete, officials said on Friday.

Thirty-seven people, mostly from Syria and Iraq, were picked up in adverse weather conditions after the boat went down on Thursday near international waters near the Greek island, Greek port police told AFP.

Five of them were taken by helicopter to the Greek island of Karpathos on Thursday while 30 others - including a woman and a child - were transported to the Greek town of Ierapetra in southeast Crete, an AFP photographer reported.

Friday's search operations were hampered by gale-force winds, Greek port police said.

Two Turkish frigates and a maritime patrol aircraft were also searching for the missing refugees, said Turkey's defence ministry.

Survivors said that eight to 12 other people had been on board the boat when it went down 60 nautical miles southeast of Crete, Greek port police said.

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Refugees and migrants often use Turkey as a transit point to reach prosperous European Union states through Greece.

Many rely on smugglers and risk their lives through perilous journeys in overcrowded boats.

In 2016, Turkey inked a deal with the EU to stem the flow of refugees to Europe in return for some incentives including financial assistance.

Turkey currently hosts some 3.7 million refugees from the conflict in Syria.

Turkey expects more from EU

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has long demanded more assistance from the EU to deal with refugees and has in the past threatened to open Turkey's border unless the bloc provides additional funds.

In June, EU leaders approved plans to give Turkey another 3 billion euros ($3.6 billion) over the next few years for assistance to Syrian refugees and to help boost border controls.

The new funding plan is part of a range of incentives that the bloc is using to try to keep Erdogan on side, with Brussels also offering to modernise a customs union with Turkey and start high-level talks on issues from health to security.

But Turkey responded to the proposal saying the idea that money is enough to solve migration is "a big delusion", urging greater cooperation with the EU to tackle the issue on other levels.

Ankara has repeatedly said it wants a review of the 2016 deal in a fashion that "responds to the needs of the day and common interests".

Turkey now fears a fresh wave of Afghan refugees as US troops withdraw following 20 years of fighting against the Taliban, which has been regaining territory.

Erdogan this week said Turkey was holding talks with the Afghan authorities over the issue of migrants.