- The Washington Times - Monday, February 8, 2016

At least 35 migrants were killed Monday after two boats capsized off the coast of western Turkey, just as German Chancellor Angela Merkel was visiting the nation to strategize with Turkish authorities on how to stem the flow of refugees to Europe from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Turkish Coast Guard recovered the dead bodies of 27 migrants — 11 of them children — who died after their boat bound for the Greek island of Lesbos capsized in the Aegean Sea, according to a report by Turkey’s Hurriyet Daily News.

Other Turkish news reports said the bodies of 11 more migrants were found after a separate accident, making Monday the worst day for migrants attempting to cross the Aegean since Jan. 22, when more than 40 people drowned while risking the perilous route to Europe.

The International Organization for Migration says 374 refugees and other migrants have died so far this year while trying to reach Greece.

Since the start of Syria’s war in 2011, some 4.6 million refugees have fled into neighboring countries — Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt — where many are now living in makeshift humanitarian camps.

Hundreds of thousands more have journeyed to Europe, spawning a refugee crisis across the continent.

Turkey, which is seen as central to the route from the Middle East to Europe, has taken in an estimated 2.5 million refugees and authorities in Ankara say the nation’s capacity for absorbing more is maxed out, despite indications that the flow of people leaving Syria continues to surge.

Mrs. Merkel’s visit to Ankara on Monday came as Turkey faces pressure from the EU to open its border to as many as 35,000 Syrians who have massed along the frontier in the past few days.

The Associated Press reported that Turkey and Germany had agreed on a set of measures to try to tackle the Syrian refugee crisis, including a joint diplomatic initiative aimed at halting violence in the war-torn nation.

Mrs. Merkel said that Turkey and Germany will push the United Nations to keep to a resolution passed in December that calls for all sides to halt without delay attacks on civilians.

European Union leaders, meanwhile, have pledged $3.3 billion to help improve the condition of refugees, and to grant political concessions to Turkey, including easing visa restrictions and fast-tracking the nation’s EU membership process.

Mrs. Merkel said over the weekend that EU leaders agree on the need to protect Europe’s external borders, but that Europe “must be prepared to take in quotas of refugees legally and bear our part of the task.”

“I don’t think Europe can keep itself completely out of this,” the German chancellor said, according to the AP.

Germany saw an unprecedented 1.1 million asylum seekers arrive last year, many of them fleeing conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

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