At least 11 Syrian refugees drowned off the Turkish coast as they tried to reach Greek islands in the Aegean Sea on two separate boats, Turkish media reported early on Wednesday.
One of the boats, carrying 16 Syrian refugees, heading to the Greek island Istankoy sank after leaving the Akyarlar area in the Turkish resort town, Bodrum. The boat that sank left seven refugees dead, five missing, and four rescued. The Turkish Coast Guard is continuing their search for the missing refugees.
The second boat, carrying six Syrians sank after leaving Akyarlar, Bodrum, hours later, on the same route. A woman and three children drowned while two refugees survived after reaching the shore in life jackets, according to the report.
Syria has been gripped by conflict since the Assad regime launched a crackdown in response to anti-government protests in March 2011. Thousands of refugees fled Syria to Turkey, a major transit point between Asia and Europe, due to the Assad regime and the threat of ISIS.
Greece is a gateway into the EU for refugees fleeing conflict and poverty.
Thousands of refugees are attempting the perilous sea crossings from Turkey to Europe despite the risks, since it is the shortest sea crossing to Europe. The Greek island of Kos is only four kilometres (2.5 miles) from Bodrum, Turkey from its closest point.
One of the chief destinations for Syrian refugees escaping the violence in their country is neighbouring Turkey, which hosts over 2 million Syrian refugees, more than any other in the world. About 259,000 of these refugees live in 23 camps set up and managed by the government.
According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, the first eight months of 2015 over 160,000 people, including asylum seekers and economic refugees, arrived in Greece by sea, with more than 2,500 losing their lives during perilous sea crossings.