33 migrants die trying to reach Greece in boat accident off Turkey

A boat carrying migrants to Greece sank off Turkey's shores killing 33 people

Saturday's was the latest in a string of fatal accidents that are casting a dark shadow over record migration inflows into the European Union.

Since January 1, there have been more than 55,500 sea arrivals in Greece and Italy, and 244 people died on the way, the International Organization for Migration said Friday. In January 2015, there were 82 fatalities.

Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency reported that the migrants' boat was trying to reach the Greek island of Lesbos from Turkey's coastal Canakkale province.

The coast guard rescued 75 people in the Aegean Sea. The migrants hailed from Syria, Afghanistan and Myanmar.

Turkey is a major launch point for migrants and refugees trying to reach the EU. More than 1 million migrants arrived on the bloc's shores last year, the biggest movement of people in the region since the end of World War II.

The Italian coast guard, which takes part in EU rescue missions in Greek waters, said separately it picked up 31 people from three dinghies off Kos, and another 15 found on the island's rocky shore, following "very difficult and challenging operations."

Four women, one of them pregnant, and five children under 3 years were among those rescued, a statement said.

In Italy, the navy said some 400 migrants rescued this week were disembarked in the southern port of Taranto, along with the bodies of six migrants who were found on Thursday, and the coast guard said it saved another 216 people overnight off Sicily.

Ankara and the EU in November agreed to work to stem migration flows. The bloc has pledged 3 billion euros in aid to help Syrian refugees in Turkey, but the money has yet to be disbursed, amid a blockage from Italy that may be resolved next week.

Turkey has registered some 2.5 million Syrians alone since the start of that country's civil war in 2011.

Last update: Sat, 30/01/2016 - 13:58

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