Reuters-Duvar English

A boat that sank on Van Lake in eastern Turkey is believed to have had 55 to 60 migrants onboard, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said on July 8, adding that six bodies had been recovered so far.

11 people have been detained in relation to the June 27 incident, Soylu added, speaking in the eastern province.

Search and rescue operations continue, Soylu said.

A diver guides a camera through the boat’s wreck on July 8.

The lake is near the border with Iran, from where migrants regularly cross into Turkey, heading west toward Europe.

The lake, which is completely within Turkey’s borders, is located on the path of migrants attempting to reach western Turkey from Iran, Afghanistan and other countries.

Seven people died and 64 were rescued when a boat carrying migrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan sank on Lake Van in December of 2019.

More than a million people reached Greece from Turkey in 2015-16, although the numbers later dropped sharply under a 2016 agreement between the EU and Turkey for Ankara to take migrants back in return for funds.

In February, tens of thousands of migrants tried to cross into Greece via land and sea borders after Ankara said it would no longer stop them in anticipation of a second wave of migrants escaping from military activity in northern Syria.

Van Bar Association Migration and Asylum Commission member lawyer Mahmut Kaçan said that they do not have access to the case files about the June 27 accident.

Mahmut Kaçan

Kaçan also noted that some 23,000 migrants had crossed through the eastern province in the past eight months, and that the government was responsible for the lives lost in smuggling accidents.

“When the government doesn’t provide the necessary legal methods, human smugglers inevitably come into the picture. Another part of this is establishing procedure for asylum,” Kaçan said.

Meanwhile, Human Rights Association (IHD) Van Chair Murat Melet said that the United Nations and Ankara both failed to fulfill their duties to migrants.