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Turkey halts more migrant boats as toddler deaths fail to stop crossings

Tima Kurdi cries while speaking to the media outside her home in Coquitlam, B.C.

By Ece Toksabay

Turkish authorities stopped 57 people trying to cross to the Greek island of Kos on Thursday night, as migrants trying to reach Europe remained undeterred by the drowning of two toddlers this week on the same route.

Images of the tiny body of 3-year old Aylan Kurdi washed up on a beach near the Turkish resort of Bodrum sparked a global outpouring of sympathy, and shocked European governments into renewed focus on tackling the migrant crisis.

But the death of Kurdi – along with his 5-year old brother Galip, his mother and nine others – has done little to deter migrants, many refugees from war in the Middle East, from taking to small boats for the 4 km (2 mile) nocturnal crossing to Kos from Bodrum.

Coastguards halted three boats carrying 57 Syrians, Afghans and Pakistanis late on Thursday, impounding the vessels and taking the passengers back to Turkey, where they spent the night sleeping under blankets in the yard of the coastguard building.

Those with papers identifying where they came from will be deported, other than to Syria, whilst the rest will stay in Turkey, an officer for the Bodrum coastguard told Reuters.

Four suspected Syrian smugglers detained in connection with the deaths of Aylan and his family appeared in handcuffs at a courthouse in Bodrum on Friday.

Meanwhile in the centre of the town, life-jackets were still on sale for as little as 30 Turkish lira ($10.07), amidst reports many are fake, cobbled together with canvas and sponge. Vendors declined to comment.

Turkey has borne much of the brunt of the humanitarian fallout from neighbouring Syria, sheltering an estimated 2 million refugees at a cost of $6 billion. But its Aegean coastline has become a key jumping-off point for thousands hoping for more permanency in Europe.

The photographs of 3-year old Aylan lying dead on the beach has prompted an outpouring of sympathy around the world for the migrants.

Abdullah, the father of Aylan and Galip, has found himself at the centre of a media storm as a result.

Late on Thursday he arrived by plane in Istanbul with his family’s bodies, en route back to the Syrian border town of Kobane, where they are expected to be buried later on Friday.

A dazed-looking Abdullah was greeted by television cameras and Turkish officials as a tiny coffin bearing one of his children was unloaded from the plane. On Thursday Abdullah, who had had an application for asylum in Canada refused before attempting to reach Europe, told reporters he wanted the world to take action, so that the deaths of his children were the last.

The United Nations refugee agency estimates more than 300,000 people have already used dangerous sea-routes this year to reach Europe this year alone, with around 2,500 losing their lives.



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