Death toll from sunken migrant boat in eastern Turkey rises to 54

On June 27, a boat carrying between 55-60 people was reported as missing in a lake near the Iranian border

A paramilitary boat searches for people in Lake Van, in eastern Turkey, Wednesday, July 1, 2020. Up to 60 migrants may have been trapped in a boat that sank in the lake last week, Turkey's Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said Wednesday. Turkey launched a search-and-rescue mission involving helicopters and boats after the boat carrying migrants across Lake Van was reported missing on June 27. (DHA via AP)
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The death toll from a migrant boat disaster in Lake Van in eastern Turkey has risen by nine to 54, the governor’s office said on Saturday.

A search operation has been ongoing since June 27, when a boat carrying between 55 and 60 migrants was reported as missing on the lake near the Iranian border.

Turkish media said the migrants are believed to be from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran.

Nine bodies were recovered from the lake on Saturday, bringing the confirmed death toll to 54.

Five people have been detained on suspicion of attempting to illegally smuggle migrants into Turkey.

A similar incident occurred in December, when seven migrants drowned while 64 others were rescued after their boat capsized in Lake Van. Those migrants were from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.

Being near to the Iranian border, it is common for migrants from Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan travel over Lake Van with the hope of reaching Europe.

Turkey has the world’s largest refugee population, home to 4 million refugees – 3.6 of whom are Syrian, who fled civil war that has been raging since 2011.

To control the flow of migration into the bloc, the EU agreed a deal with Ankara in 2016 that closed Turkey’s borders to migrants, in return for billions of euros. But Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that much of the funds have not been paid.

After Mr Erdogan reneged on the deal, in April, tens of thousands of migrants tried to cross into Greece via land and sea borders after Turkey.