Switzerland, 15 September 2015 - The number of migrants who are losing their lives in the Mediterranean continues to increase dramatically. Over this past weekend, and through the first days of this week, an estimated 72 migrants have lost their lives in their attempt to cross into the Greek islands from Turkey.
Deaths in 2014 were 69 migrants; the number for 2015 now has topped 71 migrants. So far in September Turkish data shows one death per day -13 through Sunday - making this month among the deadliest of the current emergency. Fifteen migrants died in Turkish waters in all of August.
IOM Ankara’s Emrah Guler cited the assistance of the organization’s national toll-free “157 Helpline,” which was established in 2005 to assist in the rescue of survivors of trafficking in human beings.
The Helpline evolved to provide information on a non-emergency basis to individuals who may be at risk of being trafficked. The expanded Helpline information services now include advice on visa applications and procedures for the safe return home for stranded migrants as well as migrants seek rescue on the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas.
“Migrants are calling the 157 help line when they think that their boat will sink or sometimes some of them swimming to the coast and call 157 informing that their boat sank and some migrants can’t swim and need help,” explained IOM’s Emrah Guler in Ankara. “Then their request is forwarded to the Turkish Coast Guard so that they send their patrols or rescue boats to identify and rescue. Migrants generally know where they are or from where they attempted to cross the borders.”
One example came on 19 August, when a group of migrant called 157 requesting rescue, stating that they left from Turkey’s Çeşme province and were heading to Greece. In coordination with the Coast Guard.15 Afghans were rescued near Çeşme’s Karaabdullah district. The 157 Hotline team also informs the Hellenic Coast Guard whenever Turkish rescue operations fail to find the migrants at sea.
The Helpline is operational around-the-clock. Multilingual operators provide advice in Russian, English, Turkish and a number of other languages. Helpline operators are trained in counselling and in providing emergency assistance as well as soliciting sensitive information from the public concerning actual or suspected cases.
Additionally, IOM Turkey received data from the Turkish Coast Guard indicating some 13 migrants already have died in Turkish waters through the beginning of September, making this month the deadliest on that stretch of the Mediterranean in two years.
This morning IOM received reports of at least 22 migrants drowning in the Aegean Sea. Fatalities are said to include four children drowned while 211 migrants were rescued after a Kos-bound boat capsized.
The 20-meter wooden boat, which was also used for boat tours, capsized at around 6 a.m. off the coast of Turkey’s southwestern Datça district, according to one news service report, which said bodies of the 22 victims have been recovered.
Meanwhile there were reports of two more Syrian migrants drowning Monday in an attempt to reach a Greek off the coast of İzmir’s Seferihisar district. A fishing boat spotted the migrants at around 10:55 a.m. and started rescue efforts. Coast guard boats soon joined the effort and managed to rescue 11 migrants while recovering the bodies of two others.
An unprecedentedly high number of migrants continue their journey to Greece; IOM estimates that from September 11th to September 13th approximately 20,000 migrants have been registered in the Greek islands. The Head of IOM Mission in Greece, Mr. Daniel Esdras said that "Reality has overrun our predictions; needs are exceeding the available capacity. The desperation of these people leads them to take fatal risks, and the organized crime of smugglers is expanding every day. There is no time left.’’