Six Afghan migrant children have drowned after the rubber dinghy they were travelling in sank off Turkey's Aegean coast. Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency said the coast guard rescued five asylum-seekers from the sea and were still looking for two others reportedly missing.
The bodies of the children were recovered, and one of them was a baby. They were hoping to make it to the island of Khios from the resort of Cesme despite bad weather.
Turkey has increased efforts to prevent migrants heading to Greece by sea. Last week, authorities rounded up around 3,000 migrants in the town of Ayvacik, north of Cesme, who were believed to be waiting to make the journey to the Greek island of Lesbos.
The latest tragedy comes as the UN said the number of migrants crossing the Mediterranean to Europe fell by more than a third in November 2015, due also to Turkey's crackdown on traffickers in the Aegean on the route to Greece. An accord with the European Union aimed at stemming the influx of refugees resulted in Ankara conducting more naval patrols and border checks on Turkey's border.
In the last week of November, Turkish authorities detained 1,300 asylum-seekers and migrants who were poised to cross the Aegean Sea to get to Greece. Police apprehended about 750 migrants in a pre-dawn sweep in the town of Ayvacik, in Canakkale province, according to Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency. About 550 people, who were trying to hide in olive groves, were detained in the afternoon.
The asylum-seekers were fleeing war, devastation and persecution in Syria, Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan. The town of Ayvacik is a main crossing point to the nearby Greek island of Lesbos, which has seen an unprecedented arrival of refugees in the past few months. Under the new deal with the EU, Turkey will get €3bn (£2.1bn) in aid, a deal on visas and renewed talks on joining the 28-nation bloc.
The International Organisation for Migration estimated in late November that nearly 860,000 migrants had landed in Europe so far this year, with more than 3,500 dying while crossing the Mediterranean in search of safety. On December 1 , the UN's children's agency warned that women and children make up an increasing proportion of the migrants and refugees on the move, and currently account for more than half, up from just 27% a few months ago.