Ankara — German Chancellor Angela Merkel is meeting Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and other Turkish officials for talks on reducing the influx of migrants to Europe.
Turkey, a key country on the migrant route to Europe, is central to Merkel’s diplomatic efforts to reduce the flow.
Her talks in Ankara yesterday came as Turkey faces mounting pressure to open its border to up to 35,000 Syrians who have massed along the frontier fleeing an onslaught by government forces.
Turkey, home 2.5 million Syrian refugees, says it has reached its capacity to absorb refugees but has indicated that it will continue to provide refuge.
Turkey agreed in November to fight smuggling networks and help curb irregular migration. The EU has pledged $3.3billion to help improve the condition of refugees.
Meanwhile, twenty-three migrants drowned off Turkey’s Aegean coast as they tried to reach a Greek island, the Turkish coast guard said, and a search and rescue operation was underway for the remaining passengers.
One migrant was rescued by a fisherman and three more were rescued by the coast guard, which said it had deployed boats and helicopters to search for 13 more passengers.
The boat sank in the Aegean Sea near the Edremit area of the northwestern province Balikesir, the coast guard said in a statement.
Separately, the private news agency Dogan said 11 migrants died and three were rescued when another boat sank further south, off the coast of Dikili in the province of Izmir.
More than 900,000 people fleeing Syria, Afghanistan and other war-torn or impoverished countries arrived in Greece from Turkey last year, often risking their lives in the short but perilous sea crossing in overloaded boats. Hundreds have died making the attempt.
In Australia, some of the 267 asylum seekers the country wants to deport to an offshore immigration centre following a court ruling are suffering from cancer and other terminal illnesses, a senior government official said yesterday.
Australia’s High Court last week upheld the government’s right to deport detained asylum seekers to the tiny South Pacific island of Nauru, about 3,000KM (1,800 miles) northeast of Australia.
The decision provoked criticism from the United Nations and sparked protest, with church leaders offering asylum seekers sanctuary.
The centre has been widely criticised for harsh conditions and reports of systemic child abuse and sexual assault.
Some deportations could begin within days, but others would have to be dealt with in a staged fashion, because of the illnesses, said Michael Pezzullo, secretary of the department of immigration and border protection.— Reuters.