7 killed as migrant boat sinks in Turkey's Lake Van

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The capsized boat is pulled out of Lake Van in Turkey, Dec. 26, 2019. [Photo/Xinhua]

Seven people were killed as a migrant boat capsized in eastern Turkey's Lake Van, the state-owned Anadolu news agency reported Thursday.

The boat carrying migrants capsized at around 3 a.m. local time (0000 GMT) as it sailed close to Adilcevaz district in the eastern Turkish city of Bitlis, on the northern shores of Lake Van.

Five people were found dead on the spot and two died later in hospital. Some 64 others were rescued and taken to nearby hospitals and shelters, the report said.

Search operations are still underway.

The undocumented migrants may be from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan and their final destination was not immediately clear, according to the Anadolu report.

Lake Van lies in the far east of Turkey near the border with Iran, from where migrants often cross into Turkey before heading west to Europe.

In 2016, Turkey and the European Union (EU) reached a refugee agreement to stem the flow of illegal immigration toward Europe in return for visa-free travel for Turkish citizens in the EU, restoration of Turkey's EU accession talks and financial aid for refugees in Turkey.

Earlier this month, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned Europe against a new wave of Syrian refugees fleeing increased bombardment in northwest Syria's Idlib province, saying "Turkey will not carry this migration burden alone."

The negative effects of illegal immigration on Turkey will also be "felt by all European countries," Erdogan said.

According to the United Nations Refugee Agency's estimates, Turkey will continue to host the largest number of refugees worldwide in 2020, with some 4.1 million refugees, including 3.7 million Syrians, nearly 400,000 asylum-seekers, as well as refugees of other nationalities.

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