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18 migrants drown off Turkey in latest refugee tragedy

At least 18 migrants drowned when their overcrowded boat sank in the Aegean Sea on Thursday on the way to the Greek island of Lesbos in the latest tragedy involving refugees seeking to enter Europe. The wooden boat capsised in high waves two miles off the Bademli coast in the Aegean, the private Dogan news agency reported.

The Turkish coastguard recovered the bodies including several children from the sea, and were hunting for another two who were missing. A one-year old baby was among those rescued. Divers from the nearby Turkish coastal city of Izmir were rushed to the scene after a tip-off that more refugees could be stuck in the hold, Dogan said.

The UN refugee agency and the International Organisation 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. Greek police said yesterday that at least 13 people including seven children, drowned when their boat sank in the Aegean.

Turkey, which is currently hosting at least 2.2 million Syrian refugees, is a major launch-pad for migrants who are seeking better lives in European Union nations. The EU is grappling for solutions to the mass arrival of migrants, 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.

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