06.09.2012 / 16:21

Boat with Migrants Suffers Shipwreck near Turkey, 58 People Drowned

A boat carrying migrants has capsized off the coast of western Turkey, with the loss of at least 58 lives.

Another 45 of those on board were rescued from the sea. Those who died, including women and children, had been below deck, Turkish media said.

The fishing boat was said to have been carrying mainly Iraqi and Syrian nationals heading for Europe.

The Greek islands in the Aegean Sea are a common destination for migrants who pay smugglers to take them from Turkey.

Unconfirmed reports said the group had been staying in local hotels and had planned to travel to the UK.

The fishing boat went down after hitting rocks at around 05:30 local time (02:30 GMT) close to the shore near the village of Ahmetbeyli in the province of Izmir.

Many of the migrants were able to swim to the shore which was 50m away from where the boat went down.

After the alarm was raised, divers and coastguards tried to save some of those who were still on board but Turkish media said the number of dead was expected to rise.

Two Turks have been arrested on suspicion of trying to smuggle the migrants on board to one of the Greek islands.

Turkey is currently home to more than 80,000 refugees from Syria, but even before the conflict began it was seen as the main destination for Africans and Asians seeking entry into the European Union.

Several Greek islands, including Chios and Samos, are on the migrant routes from Turkey to Greece and the EU has stepped up border controls in recent years in an attempt to intercept the boats.